Sailor Boy called one morning, casually asking what we were doing that weekend. He tried to be sly, but I knew where this was going: he was coming home.
We’d been planning for this for more than a year: he was moving to Italy with the Navy, and needed to come home to bring his car and other supplies, and for some R and R before he moved, and I was taking the road trip to Minnesota with him. Originally this was planned for last July, but he was unexpectedly deployed. Since last April 1, we and his USS Nimitz shipmates had been aboard. They were sailing on, but he got to be flown off early so as to finally change duty stations (as I write this, the Nimitz is days away from FINALLY returning home. Congrats to all!).
So I rearranged my schedule and waited for details. I looked into flights and hotels and driving routes. I researched funky sights and yummy restaurants. Once I got the speciic dates he would be home, I made reservations and waited.
Meanwhile, he was cooling his heels in Bahrain, waiting for transport back to the States. He slept a lot (in a real bed, not a tiny, no privacy rack with 5 other people within reach). He took long showers where he could have the water whatever temperature he chose. He went barefoot. He ate good food, and lots of it. His texts to us revealed the sheer joy he experienced in simple things:
“Oh my god…The (hotel) has a renowned Italian restaurant. I am laughing right now only because I’m on the verge of crying. The wine. The bread. The mozzarella. The everything. I’m back. I am in genuine pleasure over ARUGULA. This is the time where it hits and I know I’m safe.”
It made us happy to hear him happy, but I needed him back where I could see him. A few days later he was back in Washington, and I was days from joining him.
I flew out two days before our road trip. We spent the time before we left packing and purging, closing accounts and saying goodbye to my brother and sister in law who live out there. He also got a Covid test and one last haircut from his favorite stylist.
Then it was time to pile in his Nissan and make the drive!
Before we set off bright and early to catch the Seattle ferry, Sailor Boy wanted me to get a donut from one of his fave places in Bremerton, Dallas Donuts. This tiny unassuming place reminds me of a mom and pop Winchell’s of old. I’m not usually a donut person, but these were GOOD. So good, that I forgot to take a pic of them until the last bite, lol.
From Seattle, he wanted to stop in Leavenworth. I know — in my mind all I could think of was the prison, too. But Leavenworth, WA is super cute. It’s this replica Bavarian town in the Cascade Mountains. Seems the once thriving town fell on hard times when the railroad moved out. Some townspeople visited Germany, and were reminded of how much the mountains there reminded them of home — and realized: we could turn our struggling town into its own fairytale!
The town is full of charm in the form of architecture, shops, bars and restaurants.
I’d have loved to spend more time there, but we just wandered a bit then had a nice, hearty German lunch at Ludwig’s.
After we wiped to grease off our faces, we hit the road, with our evening destination of Missoula, Montana in our sights. Sailor Boy’s job for the trip was to download a book for us to listen to, and he enjoyed his task, spending his last week’s of deployment making his choice. He chose a Terry Pratchett book called Guards! Guards!. I was worried, as I am a visual learner, have never listened to an audiobook, and he likes complicated books with creatures and mystical names and places and stuff. But it was very funny, and we and a ball. It made me think of the nights spent reading books to him at bedtime, only now he was explaining the story to me. I could get used to that.
Along the way we enjoyed some snacks picked up in Leavenworth…
From Washington we hit Idaho, which was pretty unremarkable except for Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. So wish we had hit that area in broad daylight, as the scenery was stunning. Definitely on my list of places to visit in the future!
Shortly after we crossed the Montana border, things started to feel a little different. Like, we went into a gas station and we were the only ones in masks. Even the cops and store keepers didn’t wear them. Freaked me out, I’m not gonna lie. Ironic that as the day darkened to night, so did people’s attitudes towards safety.
The next day our goal was Deadwood, South Dakota. Had breakfast at the hotel, and hit the road.
One of the things I researched before our trip was a cool website called Roadside America. Among other things, it lists all sorts of really odd roadside attractions you can stop ad see on an adventure. We didn’t stop much, but we did read about things as we passed. Our mantra for this stretch of journey: “what the heck, Montana?”
For example, you have the Big Stack. The larest free-standing masonry sculpture in teh world (the Washington Mounument could fit inside it easily),it’s literally an old smokestack. They tore down the factory, but folks in teh area protested, so tehy kept it up. But you can’t get within a mile of it, becasue the ground is toxic thanks to the arsneic and lead from it’s working days. Which leads me to perhaps teh creepiest Montana “toursit attraction” we read about, “the Lake of Death.”
Used to be an open-pit copper mine. Now, according to the Roadside Attractions page, “it’s a massive lake of deadly drainage, as large as 484 football fields, 1,800 feet deep (deeper than any of the Great Lakes) and a mile across. The pit holds over 40 billion gallons of waste so deadly that in 1995 it killed over 300 snow geese that mistakenly landed on it. The snow geese slaughter happened again in late November 2016, when 10,000 of them landed on the liquid and thousands succumbed.” It is a tourist attraction, where you can pay to go see all the pretty colors of the lake, from a safe distance. If you forget to bring a lunch to enjoy at the picnic tables, they have a snack bar. Just don’t mind the horns they have to keep honking to save more wayward birds…
So yeah: what the heck, Montana?
We stopped in Billings for lunch, where we found a wonderful Mexican restaurant called Don Luis. I was driving that afternoon, so I let Sailor Boy tell me all about their sangria (I did take a sip — it was great!).
Later that afternoon we were getting low on gas and started to look for places to fill up. I wanted to stop right away, but listened to my son. He was sure we were fine. It was his car, so he knew it better, but I didn’t like it. So on we drove, through a very quiet, very isolated Native American reservation. No gas stations. Not very many houses. The light on the dash was getting brighter. My anxiety was rising. We finally saw a sign for a town, and I relaxed a bit — until we got there.
We turned in the direction the signs indicated, and were stopped by a road block. Flashing signs warned of local traffic only due to a Covid outbreak.
I asked the man at the barrier if we could just go in and get some gas, but he said absolutely not. In fact, they weren’t even allowing supplies in, so the gas station was empty anyway. Besides, there was a gas station about 20 miles up the road.
Grrr. (at least we had churros leftover from lunch)
I glared at my son, and drive on, carefully. Holding my breath. I breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the station in the distance, and told my son we wouldn’t be taking that risk again. Of course, he felt we were more at risk at this stop, as no one was masked here either. Just miles from an outbreak, that wasn’t comforting.
Back in the car, with old timey Deadwood — and a cocktail — on our minds.
The good news: we got there safely. The bad news: even fewer masks!
This was the only hotel we went to where the staff didn’t wear masks (except for the front desk woman who put hers on when we walked in). I purposely chose Marriott properties for all of our stays, assuming they would be safe. Not so much this one. Ugh. The hotel was nice, but we didn’t linger in the hallways, wouldn’t visit the bar (I really wanted that cocktail), and in the morning refused to enjoy the free breakfast. Dinner that night was nice, but even there: no masks. I hadn’t seen a server’s whole face in almost a year. It was so uncomfortable! I hated it. Even small children started at us for being masked. Clearly South Dakota didn’t believe in science. The town lost out on dollars from us, but it didn’t look like they were hurting. That’s cool. You stay in your state, I’ll stay in mine.
So leaving Deadwood behind was easy! I’m not sure I want to visit when things get better, which made me sad.
The next morning we could’ve driven straight to Minnesota, but we wanted to make a couple of stops. Just a short 40 minutes from Deadwood we reached the Crazy Horse Memorial, then after that visited Mount Rushmore. Both were more impressive than I thought they would be, and I am so glad we stopped. The museum at the Crazy Horse memorial is really amazing. Definitely check it out if you can!
And even though we didn’t find any treasure, or see Nicolas cage, we marveled at the beauty of Mount Rushmore.
And we saw a mountain goat on the side of the road!
We had originally discussed stopping in Darwin, MN, to see the world’s largest ball of twine, but Sailor Boy was way too excited to get home. Grabbed a couple power ball tickets, some road snacks (gotta have Corn Nuts), and some weird wine called Red Ass Rhubarb for later and powered through — with one more detour.
We almost stopped at Wall Drug, but after a dozen miles and what felt like hundreds of signs, we were exhausted by the very idea. Like seeing an overlong preview at the movies (remember those?), I felt like we’d seen it all and didn’t need to spring for the feature.
Instead, we pulled off in Mitchell, South Dakota, and enjoyed the glory that is the Corn Palace.
I love kitsch.
As the hours passed, Sailor Boy became more and more excited. Home was on the distant horizon. He didn’t really recognize anything until we were about 30 minutes from home, but that was okay. Soon he’d be in his bed, with his dog and his dad, and would start the longest stretch of time spent there since joining the Navy five years prior. Pulling into that driveway after three long days of road tripping was wonderful!
We truly were lucky on the drive. No major issues (and since neither of us later broke with Covid, our masks and hand sanitizer seemed to do the trick, thank goodness), no weather, no car trouble.
Flash forward a week and a half, when we drove to Michigan to take the now road-weary car to Singer Girl, who would be using it while it’s rightful owner was overseas. A storm hit the day we had to drive, and our 10 hour drive lasted 14 hours. We barely made it to town in time before restaurants closed, but grabbed dinner and had Singer Girl’s apartment in our sights — when we were rear-ended by some poor college kid who slid on the unplowed roads. After exchanging info, we continued on — only to get stuck in the snow outside her building. With his bum shoulder and my bad elbow, we were a sight trying to push that car free. Later, after dinner in her apartment, we travelled to the hotel — which didn’t have an attached parking garage, so we drug my suitcase through the snow. But only mine, mind you: we left his in Minnesota.
I guess one out of 2 easy road trips ain’t bad.
Let’s be honest: the past two years I have made lengthy New Year’s resolutions commitments that were more like to do lists. And I did not to do them.
You know what would’ve been GREAT resolutions for 2020? Read more. Spend more time with family. Catch up on TV shows and movies. Work in the yard.
Cuz I SLAYED those.
But hey, if 2020 taught us anything, it’s how to pivot, right?
So this year, I am resolving to walk my dog once a week.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we are super lazy and rely on her to exercise herself through play dates, twice weekly daycare, or just running around the yard on her own. Every time we are out in the yard with her, she is so happy and wants to play, and I feel so bad that we don’t do it more — especially in winter.
(in rescue we’ve actually talked about how we often prefer adopters who DON’T have fenced yards, as they walk their dogs more regularly than those lazy bums like me.)
I figure if I promise to walk her once a week, I’ll also be getting in more exercise for me, so that’s a good thing as well. Because of course I did not hit the exercise more/lose weight goal I set last New Year’s. Or the one before that.
I will be printing out my resolutions from last year and making them an actual to do list — and, hopefully, getting them all done.
In the mean time, I need to go dust off my winter dog walking boots!
Yes, I realize that I am a month late on this. But, once again, here is my recap of the 30 days of thankfulness I do every November on Facebook. What are YOU thankful for (besides the fact that 2020 is OVER!!!!)?
Thankful project Day 1: (we need this more than ever this year. Dig deep. Find the every day joys!) My neighborhood! My biggest fear leaving our treasured McKinley Court community was not finding new people to smile at in our new place. Well, 6 years later, I can truly say we have chosen well. This year we have really come together and realized how important those “mailbox” connections are. We are lucky! I love Walden!
Thankful project day 2: grateful that Stevie Nicks, despite stealing a bag of chewy sticks and 6 pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting while we were out, did not puke during the night.
Thankful project day 3 (make that hopeful projection that will make me thankful if it comes true): Thankful that, no matter what happens today, tomorrow our country will start to heal. That, if our candidate wins, we have all acted with grace, humility, and quiet hope. So no gloating publicly (but yes, you can feel happy), because that is not how you get people to listen to you. And no rioting/destruction/ugly name calling (but yeah, you can be pissed or sad). This country should embrace differences, not mock them. Our variety is what makes us special, not what divides us. So today: vote for a side. Tomorrow: let’s start stitching things back together. And it starts with you, not whoever sits in the Oval Office. I am not a religious person, but I have always liked the phrase “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” So if my candidate prevails, I will not gloat. If my candidate loses, I will take it upon myself to change the world in whatever little way I can. Try to think of something positive you can do for one person, especially if that person is politically opposite from you. Be the person you want your kids (and your President) to be. Now: go vote!
Thankful project day 4: when my sailor’s ship is near land and he can text!
Thankful project day 5: more internet access for Sailor Boy means PHOTOS!
Thankful project day 7: the weather!!! Probably won’t be this warm for another 5-6 months! TGIF!
Thankful project day 7: that we committed to donating blood regularly ( a COVID silver lining!). Today we stepped it up and donated platelets! Please donate. They are seeing a drop off during COVID times.
Thankful project day 8: that HWSNBN was paying close attention when driving and didn’t hit the chocolate lab that darted in front of our car this evening. We quickly pulled over, I grabbed a leash and a handful of treats, and called to the woofer, assuming he would run. Nope: typical lab. Ran over, wagged his tail, and hopped in the back seat with a bewildered Stevie Nicks. Got home, found his name and number neatly embroidered on his collar (hi Oscar!) and called his grateful people. While we waited, he ran joyfully around the house, ransacking the toy box with glee. So glad it ended that way.
Thankful project day 9: 3 days and 3 1/2 hours until the next original song drops! (this is about Singer Girl’s song, that was soon to come out. IN the mean time, I was sharing one of her tiktok videos. Do you follow her? She’s @frankienstein3
Thankful project day 10: that my brother and I made it through the election cycle “relationshiply” unscathed, and, TBH, I feel we are closer than we have been in years. Happy birthday, Trevor S Rice!
Thankful project day 11: that the cortisone shot in my elbow is in the rear view. Ouch.
Thankful project day 12; the public library! For someone like me, who burns through several books a month, it’s a financial lifesaver! Although, TBH, I also spend a good chunk of change at Excelsior Bay Books, so I’m not totally thrifty. But hey: BOOKS!
Thankful project day 13: Cargill! Tonight I attended a fund raising event at a dog park in Plymouth, where Cargill employees paid for the privilege to stand in the wind and snow with happy puppies, all to raise money for Secondhand Hounds. So cool! Btw don’t forget November 19th is Give to the Max Day, but you can donate now and all donations will be matched by a generous donor!
Thankful project day 14: THE NEW SINGLE IS HERE! Like/follow/share on all platforms! Download on Spotify, iTunes, amazon, YouTube, etc. Wherever you get your music. But please share! Legend (Gin&Tonic).
Thankful project day 14: nature! This was a crazy, random moment off our balcony in Vail! Foxy lady! (see more on this in my previous post, “A-Vailing Ourselves of Colorado”)
Oops: missed day 15!
Thankful project day 16: bulldogs in baby carriages!
Thankful project day 17: dinners like this. (again — see previous blog, and the pic of our staying-in meal).
Oops…another missed day, #18…
Thankful project day 19: I missed yesterday, so today will be an all-day affair! Today I am thankful for YOU, and all the support you will give your favorite Minnesota charities today. It is the annual Give to the Max day! Below is my blog post about one tiny baby saved by Secondhand Hounds. If this or any of the stories you see today inspire you, please donate! (See blog post, “Weeble May Wobble but she Don’t Fall Down”)
Thankful project day 20: the enormous generosity of Minnesotans! Yesterday people gave more than $30million to Minnesota charities. We assumed that Give to the Max Day would not be as lucrative as in last years (pandemic!), but it was a record breaker! I look forward to sharing many amazing updates in the future about the animals we will save with the money!
(And another skipped day…)
Thankful project day 22: Singer Girl (aka Francesca Torres) is home for 2 months! (this was supposed to be my TP D 21, but my info was wrong and her flight was today. Now I need to double up some day…)
Thankful project day 23: fostering! This pic popped up today. It’s HWSNBN and our very first foster, Etta. What a journey she kicked off! That decision changed my life in so many ways. It was a time when I saw the empty nest looming, and kind of wondered: what’s next? lol, be careful what you ask the universe!
Thankful Project day 24: today has been a tough one. I hate vague booking, but I can’t go into details. Suffice it to say I cried and I swore and I worried. But things can always be worse. And, for that perspective, I am grateful. (this was about my sailor son, I can now say. Deployment has been tough).
Thankful project day 25: hearing my girl sing again in the basement. Does my soul good! (and now she’s doing opera, no less. Even makes my cocktail taste better!)
Thankful Project day 26: elastic waistbands. (this was on Thanksgiving, lol)
Thankful project day 27: the simple things, like a long bath (made complete with a CBD bath bomb from Jes Naturals – CBD Wellness, btw), a very full glass of wine, a fun book, and knowing that I neither have to shave my legs or put on a bra. Thanks, COVID, for another Friday night in! Time to fire up the Netflix!
Thankful project day 28: all the people out for small business Saturday in Excelsior! We shopped until mom dropped — the weather was beautiful, the shops filled with goodies, and the shopkeepers were immensely grateful. Some eve had to have people wait outside because they were at COVID capacity!
Thankful Project day 29: zoom calls. I know, I know: yawn. But today, thanks to Zoom, I attended a baby shower in North Carolina, and hung with some of my fave women in my book club. No, it’s not the same as in person. But it is so very much better than nothing!
Thankful project day yesterday (whoops — posted on Dec 1): as the month wrapped up, I tried to think of something profound, but then I realized I was me, so I stopped. Anywho…I feel like I mention silver linings a lot, but I do think they are important. I think I have mentioned that the events of the past year, from the pandemic to the rioting to the elections, have caused me to take a deeper look at myself and how I interact with my community. I have become incredibly aware of shopping local whenever possible — and am now thus on a first name basis with some shopkeepers in Excelsior, and I can tell you I feel much brighter and lighter leaving those stores than I do a big box! (I still shop big as well, but only when I “have” to). I am going to try to patronize a new small business each week, whether a shop, a restaurant, etc. I am already thankful for the new friends I shall meet! Happy December, everyone!
While blessed with many, many friends, there is only one Unicorn Squad.
The Squad is the three couples that Vegas together yearly, plus make merry in countless other ways. We have distanced ourselves a lot since spring, but have convened in the great out of doors when we have felt safe (and the rules have allowed it). But we needed more than a few hours around a bonfire — and Vegas was neither in the cards nor on the table.
We had a bunch of timeshare points burning a hole in our pockets, but clearly 2020 has not been a great travel year. I wanted to take us all somewhere we could be outside, and where it wouldn’t be crowded, and where we could stay in separate condos. I wanted to have fun, but wanted to minimize risks — so we went to Vail, the week before the ski slopes opened (it didn’t hurt that one of the Unicorn offspring lives and works there so we got to see her in her element!).
After piling into the not so glamourous but highly functional multi-passenger not quite windowless van (there were many van down by the river jokes that weekend), we headed west from Denver airport through the stunning mountains to Vail. On the way, we stopped for lunch at the highly recommended (and rightly so ) Beau Jo’s for pizza and beer. Before we arrived, the Vail Offspring asked us to pick her up an order of crust with honey. We were baffled. Then we tried it. Oh my…I am a convert!
Back on the road, we hit up a grocery store for provisions. Wisely, We separated by couples to make it quicker. Foolishly, we did not compare carts so there was much overlap (more on that later).
We were staying at the Marriott Streamside. Each of us had cute one bedroom condos with 2 baths, our own kitchens, living rooms, fireplaces and balconies. It was perfect for spreading out so no one felt on top of each other. I think we all felt the need for a change of scenery from our homes. Who hasn’t seen more of their home’s inside in the past several months? Within an hour of checking in, I was out on the balcony, watching a gorgeous fox wander around outside. In case you were wondering, he didn’t say much. But he was stunning, and came to visit often during our stay.
That night we made our first foray to Vail Village, where we enjoyed dinner at The George, another fave of the Vail Offspring and her man. It was super casual and comfy — noshing plum duck on the couch surrounded by friends and cold beer? Yes, please. The place was pretty empty, which we appreciated. All the folks there seemed to work at the resorts, and were enjoying their last few days of calm before the tourist storm hit. I can totally picture this pace busy filled with the après ski set, smelling of damp wool sweaters, ringing with laughter, offering glimpses of the snow outside world through steamed up windows.
The next day we tried to kick off with breakfast at another fave spot, but they were closed. So we found another cool spot known for Bloody Mary’s, the Westside Cafe. It was here I discovered hatch chile chili, which immediately became by Vail food obsession (I ordered it everywhere I could).
After breakfast we headed to Vail village, where I had set up the morning’s activity. We were doing a Scavenger Hunt, from Let’s Roam. When I announced this game, I now my friends’ eyes rolled behind my back, but when we were done even the grumpiest skeptic agreed it was a fun way to see the area. This particular hunt focused on art, so we were always searching for hidden and not so hidden pieces of pubic art. We also had to do fun activities! I love doing these! I highly recommend you find out of there is one in your home town, and in the next place you travel!
Dinner was at The Fall Line, where we were probably a little loud and silly for such a nice place. I think altitude, lack of sleep and adult beverages contributed to our silliness.
We slept in the next morning, and ate in our rooms. Then it was off to the famous hot springs. It was a gorgeous drive, about an hour long, to get to where we were supposed to be going.
But we never made it there — because we (I) put the wrong hot springs place into the GPS. While we did find a hot springs establishment, it was a little more like the swimming pool in Cocoon than the natural, glamorous place we had picked out. In fact, at one point we saw three women gliding about that totally were a glimpse into our future. One blond, one brunette, one with a crazy leopard print hat (guess which one I was?).
We needed a night in, so the couples decided to pool our resources and meet in our condo. Clearly, we had similar tastes, as we each brought meat and cheese platters to the party.
After much laughter, and an 80s trivia gane we all decimated, we crashed so we could enjoy our last full day in Vail.
For breakfast we finally made it to the restaurant we’d been aiming for the first morning, the famous Little Diner. My hunger meter guided me towards a spicy bloody and pork green chili, and I was not disappointed!
Today was our wander and shop day. You could tell the slopes were opening the next day. The energy was different. Shops were stocking up and decorating for the holidays. As the day progressed, more people were in the village. Ordinarily, I would like some hustle and bustle, and I would like to return when it’s “normal.” But we started to feel a little more vulnerable, and were glad that we would be leaving before the crowds arrived.
With cocktail breaks at El Segundo and the Red Lion, we finished up our shopping. My fave purchases were some super splurgy leather mittens for myself, an some antique dice cufflinks for HWSNBN to wear on our next Vegas trip. Then it was time to chill before dinner. When planning for the trip, I had struggled finding places that were open for more than just takeout. Again, most weren’t opening until we left. I chose a place called The Fitz. It was a bit too casual for our last night, so that was disappointing, but the food was good!
This definitely seems like a great place to eat outside and enjoy the view, so on a return trip we might try that out.
We made the Vail Offspring and beau come back to the condos with us so we could load them up with all the food and alcohol we wouldn’t be finishing. Sa you can see, they were set for awhile.
Leaving Vail was sad, but, as I said, it was started to get busy so timing was perfect. I wouldn’t have felt okay about the trip if it had been crowded. Being able to spread out inside and be outside in the sunshine was just perfect. Batteries recharged, we headed back to Minnesota. Not sure when the Squad will get to travel together again, but we are planning it — and we know it will be fun.
Oh: and helpful hint — oxygen canisters for the win in high altitudes (and maybe a good Vegas pick me up, too, lol!)
Singer Girl dropped a new song yesterday!
Chipped is the last of the three songs she wrote and recorded over quarantine summer. This one’s a bit sad, about a couple who are married, but maybe shouldn’t be. Please give it a listen!
What do you think? How does it compare with the others she released? If you like what you hear, please like, download and share! And do you follow her on tiktok? It’s a great way to hear the wide variety of styles she likes to work with (her handle is @frankienstein3).
Right now she is writing more songs, partnering with a guitarist friend so she can get a different sound. I know she longs to get back on stage with a band! Hopefully, next summer we can all enjoy live music again.
I miss restaurants. I miss bars. I miss being spoiled by terrific servers and amazing chefs. I miss watching other people’s food arrive and having FOMO. I miss bantering with the servers, and wondering if they roll their eyes when they walk away or if they appreciate my wit and charm.
I will wait to go to a restaurant until our Governor says it’s safe for me, the other patrons, and the people who work in them.
I dread opening my browser in the morning to see which wonderful eateries have shuttered their doors forever. My heart breaks when I see a restauranteur lament their life work’s demise. I fear for those servers who are no longer able to pay their bills.
I will buy gift cards. I will order takeout directly from the restraunts, and avoid delievry services that take precious moey fron those who need it most. I will overtip.
I will not patronize restaurants who open in defiance of the Governor’s orders. As reported by Stephanie March of MSP Mag this week, 130 small businesses are discussing doing just that this week. I can only imagine the desperate fear those business owners are feeling. However, I don’t think it is right that they open prematurely.
I do think the government needs to do more to help them, on the local, state and federal levels. Make banks waive mortgage payments for three months (just tack the 3 months onto the end of the loans), so landlords can waive rent. Get some subsidies in there for servers, suppliers, etc. I think it’s pretty clear that if they reopen illegally, they will forfeit any relief. They may also make it worse overall for those in their community who will respectfully suffer through the restrictions.
March’s article quotes the organizer of the coalition as saying if people don’t feel safe, they don’t need to go to the restaurants. True, and fair. Servers do not have that luxury. If a restaurant reopens, they will put themselves at risk to do their jobs. These people do not typically have financial cushions (or if they did, they are long gone). Minimum wage workers do not have the luxury of staying home.
So it is with great sorrow and conflict that I say will not patronize any business opening illegally. I won’t get takeout from there, either. And I may find it really tough to ethically support them next summer when we may be back to a semblance of normal.
I hope we Minnesotans followed the rules enough during this last shutdown to allow Governor Walz to authorize a limited reopening next week. If so, yes: we will go out again. If not, we will be sad, but do our part.
Please, my favorite restaurants, and all those places that haven’t become my favorites yet, don’t risk everyone’s health by opening prematurely in desperation.
Like everyone else, we’ve been pivoting on the date night thing. Changes in weather, and rising COVID rates, meant options were becoming harder to find. So, rather than a monthly recap, I’m moving to bi-monthly, because, well, there just isn’t as much story to tell.
Our first October date night was his choice. We headed over to the movely Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to wander and enjoy the scenery.
If you’re a Minnesotan, and have never been, go. If you are like us and go maybe once a year, change that and go seasonally (that’s on my to do list next year). If you live in another area, find one near you. Ours is run by the University of Minnesota, and, as they say on the website,
“Founded in 1958, we are a member-driven non-profit with more than 1,200 acres of professionally-maintained gardens, rare plant collections and accessible trails…the Arboretum is engaged in cold-hardy plant research and has developed 27 commercial apples, including Honeycrisp, Haralson and First Kiss®. In 2019, USA Today readers named the Arboretum the best botanical garden in North America.”
Learn more about it here.
Every time we go we are inspired on ways to further enhance our yard (and usually HWSNBN comes home with pocket fulls of seeds. Sometimes he even writes down what they are for.
The Arb often has seasonal displays and exhibits. You may remember our date night there last winter to see the lights. This time the featured exhibit was a scarecrow competition.
After dinner, we headed to dinner in a new-for-us location 30 Bales in Hopkins. Would totally go again. It looks like a typical diner (a little fancified), but the food is anything but ordinary.
Next it was a nightcap, aka a nice glass of wine, at the Vine Room, also in Hopkins.
The next week we got busy –socially speaking. We double dated on Friday evening with friends Christi and Jim (the Sun 50 folks) at a new Excelsior Restaurant, the Bull and Finch.
Saturday it was my turn to plan. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, so we headed east to St Paul. We pretty much only go to St Paul when I plan dates, because HWSNBN is sure we will fall off the edge of the earth of we drive that far (it’s like a 30 minute drive, max). First up was a late lunch/early dinner at the The Gnome Craft Pub. Formerly the Happy Gnome, this place was revamped by celebrity chef Justin Sutherland and partners, complete with a to die for patio (swinging chairs under the trees and fairy lights? yes, please!).
Food is drippy and delicious, and this will be my go to for pre-gaming for Xcel Energy Center events post-COVID. We started with Shaved Raclette (molten hot cheese, potatoes and shaved ham — was there any question I would be into this?). He had the Carved Barbacoa sandwich, and I had the Carved Wet Pork (great band name, BTW). Defintely a three napkin sandwich.
Traditionally we only see the changing leaves on Cathedral Hill during the last miles of the Twin Cities Marathon, and neither of us looks up — he’s eyeing the finish line and I’m searching for him.
The mansions are gorgeous, however, and I’ve always wanted to explore them. All the hosted tours were closed, but I found a cool self-guided one online, courtesy of Big Boy Travel. For a few hours we wandered, learning all about the neighborhoods and who had built and lived in the various homes.
(the tour starts at the St Paul cathedral and finished at the James J Hill House. Both were closed to the public (thanks, COVID) so we will have to go back. We had a ball. At one point, a woman who lived in the area watched us as we read off the info about some homes on her block. She interrupted ato ask what we were doing, and was fascinated by the website. She learned something new, and was excited to try the tour for herself, even though she’d lived amidst all that gorgeous history for years!
The next weekend was his turn. With dog Stevie Nicks in tow, HWSBN took us to a very cool pumpkin patch in Watertown called the LuceLine Orchard. It was funny watching Stevie’s reactions to all the people, dogs and other animals. At one point she was just following her nose, then lifted her head and was within bleating distance of a goat and a chicken. Girlfriend jumped and did a double take. A little later she met a very large, very furry, cow.
Stevie wanted nothing to do with her, and backed away quickly. She is such a suburban dog. She looked at us like, “Is this what you guys do when you leave me???”
Decided to drop her back at home to recover (what must those doggie dreams have been like, I wonder?), and went to dinner to one of our faves, Coalition in Excelsior.
We kicked off November with a double date with friends Matt and Patti. Just a nice, easy night at a delicious place I’ve mentioned before: P.S.Steak. My only complaint is that they didn’t have their French Onion soup on the menu. They need to bring that back! But let’s face it — the steaks are to die for, and ya gotta love a Baked Alaska! So retro, so delish!
We took kind of a break from date nights after that, and instead took a trip which I will talk about in another blog. Then Singer Girl came home, and Thanksgiving happened, so we have been focused in those directions. We did manage a nice date night in, with takeout from the aforementioned Bull and Finch, and me beating the pants off him playing Racko.
The date nights have definitely mellowed, but they are just as necessary. Man, are we gonna date night HARD when this pandemic is over! We are so lucky to live here, and I intend to take full advantage of everything we can!
It’s Give to the Max Day! Since today is so important day (more on that later), I thought I’d share an update on my fave foster of the year — and maybe one of my favorites of all time!
Something grabbed me on the inside and I instantly reacted. This baby was tiny, and sad, and damaged. We didn’t know how bad off she was, or even if she could be saved. But SHH was willing to try, and I wanted her in my life.
She was teeny, and scared. When Teri and I showed up for her intake, she would scream and flail frantically. She almost threw herself off the table, and it was nearly impossible to console her. She had been found at just two weeks old, abandoned in a box on the side of a Kentucky road. Our rescue partners down there had been working with her to gte her stronger before her trip up north, and now she was ours.
As I was driving away with Weeble that night, Teri cautioned me that we might have to make a decision. I understood that we didn’t want her to suffer, but I was determined to try.
We agreed to take it a day at a time.
Weebs had no control over her body. I immediately figured she was blind. Then, I started to realize she was deaf (a diagnosisI confirmed by banging pans together over her head. She slept through the clamor). We worried she had a neurological disorder, as she couldn’t walk in a straight line. It was painful to watch — friends who met her passed silent looks over my head, sure that this baby wasn’t going to make it.
My first goal was to get her to eat, which was tough with all her lurching and swerving. She was starving, but frustrated. I would take the goopy mush and smear it on my fingers then put them in her mouth. After I had crammed as much food in her as she could handle, she would pass out, satisfied.
She wasn’t safe in her pen: she kept crashing into things and falling. So I literally gave her a padded cell.
The smaller her area, the calmer she was. So I filled it with soft toys.
We made it through the first day. Then the next. Days turned to weeks, and she started to calm down.
A trip to the vet confirmed she was messed up, but we just couldn’t tell what it was. We had a theory (Cerebellar hypoplasia), but when I reached out to others with animals with that diagnosis, they disagreed. She was doing too well.
So we just did what we could to get her stronger, healthier, and, after a while, happier.
She started to puppy! She learned to eat (although never neatly. I called her eating style the “Stevie Wonder.”). She still couldn’t easily walk a straight line, but her paths became neater diagonals, versus wide arcing circles. I realized that a lot of her issues were likely emotional trauma. Since I rarely know my fosters’ back stories, I invent them, based on the dogs’ behavior. My guess is that Weeble’s first two weeks were fine — nursing away with her litter. But when her eye opened, and she started to move, the asshats who had her litter realized she was damaged, and threw her out like trash.
Who wouldn’t be traumatized?
Once she was steadier, we made a decision that was right for her but so very painful for me: she needed “siblings.” Our founder, Rachel, had a litter of puppies about the same age and we moved Weeble and another neonatal puppy, Cheddar, into her pack. Dogs need other dogs to teach them the ground rules, and I knew she would benefit, But I was as worried as a mama dropping her differently-abled kiddo off at school for the first time.
Would the other puppies accept her, or pick on her? Would she miss my guiding hand, or join in the fun? I let her loose, held my breath, and watched.
The other puppies bounded up with puppy joy, totally unaware that my deaf, visually compromised baby couldn’t anticipate their crashing arrival. She hollered and whimpered. Baffled, they backed off. They all tried again. She wandered around, confused. No one became immediate friends, but no one tried to eat her, either. Rachel gently pushed me out the door, and promised to keep me apprised.
The house was empty and quiet and easy at home. I missed Weebs. I worried. But, like any mom, I knew that she needed to spread her wings. And she did.
Soon she was in charge, albeit goofily. Weeble, once she got past the ugly beginnings, was so joyful, so grateful to be alive, that she just thought life was amazing.
As we assumed, after a few weeks Rachel’s puppies were adopted and Weeble and Cheddar were left alone (we typically wait a bit longer to put neonates up for adoption, as they have more issues to resolve before being go-home ready). So I got Weeble back — and her “sister” Cheddar, too.
She was bigger, stronger, more confident. Her time with “siblings” had worked miracles! She and little Cheddar, also a neonatal pup who came to us with her unique “cleft nose,” were continuing to teach each other how to dog. They were doing so well, in fact, that it was time to start looking for adopters for both!
Weeble’s bio was a tough one. I knew I had to work very hard to find her the right family, as we just didn’t know what the future would hold for this wobbly baby. She needed a home with another dog, and one where the people were committed to keeping her safe, and socialized, and willing to put in the work now and forever.
When Krista applied, she said she’d been following Weeble’s journey on social media, and had fallen hard. She brought her boyfriend Jason, who wasn’t sure they needed a third dog. He was a bit more cautious and reserved during the meet and greet, but it was pretty clear by the end that he was smitten, too.
A few days later, after a virtual home visit, we decided to set up a meeting with their two boxers, and, if everyone jelled, she was theirs. My worry with any dogs was whether they would accept her, or exclude her as “damaged.” The dogs were confused by her, but more because of her exuberant energy, not her wacky ways. A family was born!
I always want to keep in touch with adopters, as I get so emotionally attached to the dogs while they are here. But Weeble was even more special than most, and I was desperate for updates. Krista and Jason have been wonderful about keeping me posted!
Weeble is now a burly, happy, bull in a china shop pupper named Wobbles (I love that). She loves going to daycare, playing with her siblings, and cuddling with mom and dad (although Jason reports that sometimes she doesn’t quite know the appropriate times to be awake, and has been known to want to play at 1am!).
I mentioned at the top of this post that today was a special day. It is Give to the Max Day, a day so important to all Minnesota nonprofits, but especially vital this year. We cannot do in-person fundraisers, so today is a make or break it kind of day. Without donations, we can’t help dog’s like Weeble. We can’t save all the bottle-fed babies, the seniors struggling at their end of life, the thousands that pass through our doors every year. We need your help.
If Weeble’s story touches you in any way, please donate today. All dnations will be matched! Go to https://www.givemn.org/donate/Secondhand-Hounds and pledge anything — it ALL helps.
As a thank you, I’ll keep sharing these babies and their stories! I don’t know who next year’s Weeble will be, but I am excited to meet her!
Singer Girl just released her next song!
It’s a bluesy, jazzy song — I wanna have a cocktail and listen to this in front of the fire. But I haven’t had breakfast yet, so that wouldn’t be proper.
Her music is on all platforms, so please download on whichever you prefer, and liste away. Love it like I do? SHARE! FOLLOW!
2020 is full of bad things. Can’t we have a good thing????
Help my girl get her voice heard!
Here’s her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/frankietorress
That is all. Carry on…
…gin and tonic in your hand.
(P.S.: if you missed her last one, here it is!
A wonderful friend recently asked me to write a blog for her company’s website. Christie has an amazing clothing line, Sun 50, that is not only fashionable and fun, it can save lives, as it is all created to save your skin from sun damage.
As the website states, “We created this company to bring hope and wellness into people’s lives.” Clearly, it has a spiritual connection with animal rescue.
I enjoyed writing about a subject that I am passionate about — just like Christie’s passionate for lookin’ fab and being safe at the beach!
After she published the blog, I decided to reprint it here, adding a bit more detail.
Perhaps you’ve realized you will be home more than usual this winter and you may be thinking, “now is THE perfect time to add a fur friend to my family.” After all, dogs have been known to cure loneliness, increase your opportunity to be outside, exercise and socialize, from a six-foot distance of course! (although, TBH, dogs don’t go in much for the social distance thing. I mean, how do you get in a good butt sniff from 6 feet away?)
So how do you start?
First of all, figure out the best dog addition for your lifestyle and be honest with yourself.
BREED: Are you looking for a running partner or a couch potato? A brewpub mate, boater, or road trip dog? Visit dog parks and ask the owner questions or just observe. Visit websites like Secondhand Hounds or Petfinder to see what’s available in your area. Research breeds of interest so you know what to expect in terms of training, health concerns, behavior, longevity, shedding, etc.
AGE: Are you ready to invest 10-20 years into this relationship? Or are you thinking 3-5 years is plenty of time? This will help you decide puppy vs older dog, and help narrow down breeds (small dogs statistically live longer than large breeds).
FINANCES: The adoption fee is just the beginning, folks. When you adopt from us, that fee includes spaying/neutering, microchipping, vaccinations, vet care, and any training/socializing we can do. Be sure to review the fees for agencies in your area.
When you get them home, add in food, medical care (routine and the inevitable emergency or illness), training, vacation expenses (whether they go with you or stay behind), etc. It adds up quickly. If you are worried about money, do not adopt breeds prone to expensive health issues, like bulldogs or Great Danes.
How new is your carpet? Do you like to leave shoes around? Does your toddler drop lots of food? How will you react when your puppy pees n your couch or the kitty uses it for a scratching post? These things happen. And it can get expensive — fast.
YOUR TIME: Puppies require a ton of work on their schedule, not yours. Not a fan of midnight walks in the snow? Don’t get a puppy. On average, it will take a dog up to a year to house train. All dogs require time in training, no matter their breed or age. It can take time for an animal to acclimate to life in your home, and if you can’t take it slowly, maybe you shouldn’t take the plunge.
OTHER PETS: do you have any other fur friends at home? How do they feel about adding to the family? We insist that all our dogs meet any other dogs they might live with. They don’t have to have an instant connection, although that can happen. But if they dislike each other immediately, that’s not a great sign. And don’t get a puppy to bring life to your old dog. That’s not fair: most older dogs would like to chill out, not defend themselves against puppy teeth and enthusiasm. Got a kitty? Is it used to dogs? If not, make sure you get a dog that is cat savvy (we can emp test our dogs), or is a puppy who you can train diligently to be respectful. Make sure that your current animals have a way to escape the new ones if they need a break. Bottom line: if you are applying to adopt one of my fosters, I will tell you to put your current animal’s needs and desires first.
WHERE YOU LIVE: are you a neat freak? A sneezer? Dogs and cats bring saliva, dander, hairballs, muddy pawprints, poop. I know folks with allergies focus on certain breeds, and they can be better. Some breeds shed less, but all animals shed in some way. Don’t write a dog off until you meet it — and don’t assume a certain breed will mean no sneezes.
Is your yard fenced? If not, are you ready to take your dog out on a leash every time it needs to go out? Electric fences are controversial — they work for some dogs, but not all. Where will the pet sleep? Is everyone on teh same page for rules? How about training — everyone should attend training classes so you are on the same page. If mom says no to jumping up on guests, but dad greets the dog every evening with an “up, up” commnad, dogs can be confused. Dogs pretty much understand “always” and “never.” “Sometimes” is anarchy.
I have found that most adoption returns happen because the adopters weren’t honest with themselves about who they are and what they were willing to take on. It is awful when returns happen: the adopters feel guilty, the dogs feel guilty, and the foster who made the connection often feels guilt as well. So please: make sure you are picking the dog whose age/size.breed works best for you and your family.
Oh — and can I make a suggestion on what NOT to do?
Don’t give a pet as a gift.
I know it looks cute on commercials, but it is a living being. When we have folks that want to do this, we first have the “gift giver” get approved, then we recommend a surprise meet and greet. Make it a “date” if it’s for your significant other — maybe you bring them to meet a dog just to see what it’s like. Or you arrange something with the adopter — like a “chance” encounter at a park. Make sure the animal clicks for them (and the dog likes them back!). If you choose a chocolate lab, and it turns out your significant other always wanted a pit bull, you can’t exchange it like a sweater that’s the wrong color.
Ready to make the move? Patience, Grasshopper. Right now, EVERYONE wants a pet. The pandemic good news for rescues all over the country is that dogs and cats are finding homes at unprecedented rates.
The bad news for adopters? Adoption is suddenly insanely competitive. For every puppy on our website, we receive dozens, or even hundreds, of applications. But please do not give up hope!
Here are some adoption tip highlights and recommendations for you:
- Read the bio and listen to what it says. If the bio says “no kids,” and you have triplets, don’t apply. If it says “must be in a home with other dogs,” and you don’t have one, move on.
- Apply quickly. Do not wait for your significant other’s opinion. Apply, THEN tell them what you have done. You are not obligated to adopt the animal, but it’s the only way to talk with the foster and learn more about the animal (our animals all live in foster homes).
- BE FLEXIBLE. If you insist on only wanting a 5-pound, blue eyed female fluffy white thing under 10 weeks old, you just made your quest exponentially harder. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to get the right pet.
- Insist on something “designer” or “trendy” (like a Frenchie)? Become a foster. SHH Fosters chose the animal(s) they foster, decide who adopts them and get “first dibs” on their foster if they “fall in love.”
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Why adopt rather than buy from a breeder? You are saving lives! According to ASPCA, about 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year. While that number is sickeningly staggering ( that’s more than 4,100 per day, or 171 per HOUR), that number is down from 2.6million each year in 2011, thanks in large part to rescues and shelters promoting spay, neuter and adopt don’t shop.
Additionally, with a foster based rescue, the foster knows the animals from heath to behavioral quirks and is motivated to facilitate the best match for you and each fur friend. It is also VERY difficult to tell if a breeder is an ethical and responsible animal lover, or just a puppy mill solely interested in profits.
It’s also waaaay less expensive. At Secondhand Hounds, our animal adoption fees range from $100 for an older cat to $1000 for a purebred, highly desirable breed puppy. For that fee, you get way more than “just” the animal itself:
“Secondhand Hounds charges an adoption fee to adopt through our rescue. … Adoption fees include the cost of spay/neuter surgery, microchip, de-worming, flea/tick preventative, heartworm test (for dogs and puppies over nine months), feLeuk/FIV test for cats and kittens, and age-appropriate rabies/distemper vaccinations. By paying this adoption fee, you are not only adopting your new best friend, but you are also allowing us to save more lives.”
Let me be clear: SHH is NOT anti-breeder. We are anti-bad breeder.
A responsible breeder has a waitlist and never has puppies waiting for adoption. A responsible breeder screens their animals for illnesses and does not breed litters with genetic issues. A responsible breeder will allow you to meet the parents, visit their facility and ask questions. If the breeder does not meet the above criteria, walk away.
Bringing a fur friend into your home is a major decision with lifelong reward. While the adoption process may take a bit longer these days, I encourage you to throw your application in. Your decision to do so will save a life — and might even be yours. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have — and please share pics of your rescue dog or cat!