Showered in Spring Dates

April was pretty grey (gray?) in Minnesota, and May was marginally better, but we welcomed spring with as many outdoor dates as possible!

I like when we can involve animals with date nights. Our first April date night had us exploring an Alpaca farm in Prior Lake called Whispering Oaks. After chatting with the owner and watching several stunning long-lashed friends in their paddock, we got to take an Alpaca for a walk (unsupervised, no less, lol). Also on the farm are chickens and donkeys and all sorts of other furry friends.

HWSNBN knows I have a thing for history — especially in the form of cemeteries (don’t judge). He found an online self-guided tour of the old Oak Hill Cemetery in Excelsior. I have always wanted to visit it, but had just driven past on my way hither and yon for the past 20 years or so. Glad to have a solid reason too get out of the car!

The tour told us about many prominent citizens and founding families buried there. I was dismayed at the awful conditions of many of the graves (a fact that was further highlighted by the contrast with the well-kept historic cemetery we visited in Boston a few weeks later. More on that in another post). Nonetheless, it is worth a walk around, especially if you are into that sort of thing, like I am.

You may have seen the footage awhile back of a drone flying around a vintage bowling alley? Well, that was at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis, and that was the site of a particularly fun date night. Thanks to social distancing rules, we got a set of lanes and ball return all to ourselves, with a waiter bringing yummy drinks and food.

I worried about my tennis elbow flaring up, and I did have to keep switching ball weights, but I did pretty well. We absolutely sucked at score keeping — I haven’t had to manually add up bowling scores in decades. Math does NOT belong on a date night.

But cocktails definitely DO belong on date night! For one of his picks, HWSNBN signed us up for a virtual cocktail class. We joined two other couples from other parts of the country and made three different tequila drinks, thanks to the the website Cozymeal. The class was called Tequila Cocktails with a Twist, and our Mixologist, Anthony, was great (follow him on Instagram). We made a life-changing margarita, a Paloma (I don’t dig grapefruit juice, but everyone else raved), and a Mexican Old-Fashioned. I was surprised how much I liked that last one, given it’s brown-liquor roots. But I’ll try any drink once, lol. And often twice.

When we finally got a glorious day, we struck out with resident dog Stevie Nicks and foster Ebby the Westie and enjoyed some of Minneapolis’s beauty. Everyone was out and about, loving the weather. It was so wonderful to be in a crowd of happy people again! Weddings, street musicians, prom pictures, families and friends and other “daters.” Glorious!

Some of our “dates” aren’t always official one-on-ones. Since the pandemic hit, we regularly spend time together giving platelets. Not exactly fun and games, but it IS something that we both get great satisfaction out of doing, and it’s something that helps bond us together. We’ve also done a lot mope double dating. For example, we went with a couple to a Minnesota Twins game.

Luckily, it was a great one, and we enjoyed watching the Twins shellac the Kansas City Royals after meeting up with two other couples at Fulton Beer. Another double date night? Adults night at the Minnesota Zoo for zoo babies! The zoo is always more fun with a cocktail in hand, and when you don’t have to let little kids get in front of you. Sometimes it’s fun to be selfish!

Our last two date nights of May couldn’t have been more different. For one, we attended the Oddities and Curiosities expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I didn’t know what to expect, except for, well some odd and curious things. We were not disappointed, lol. We thought we might find something cool for our Halloween party (which is back on this year, BTW!), but the stuff was way too weird for my guests, lol.

I mean, the beautifully framed butterflies and beetles would’ve worked, but the taxidermy two headed calf, purse made out of skin, and the mass murdered memorabilia was a bit too far off for us. The people watching was fantastic, though! No regrets going (regrets are hard to come by in my world), but I wouldn’t go again.

Last weekend we got to experience live music again for the first time since I think February 2020. We got front row seats to the Lonesome Losers show at The Hook and Ladder Theater for a Yacht Rock tribute. Almost three hours of groovy soft rock — just what the doctor ordered! Oh and the burger from the Gentleman Forager food truck was delicious!

As always, food played a prominent role in our dates.

The setting at Charlie’s on Prior made for some picturesque apres-Alpaca noshing.

For our April 14 birthday (yes, we share the day), we checked out opening night at Josefina, the new Italian place in Wayzata. The cocktails weren’t my style (too dark liquor or Aperol-bitter), but the home made pasta was a thing of beauty.

Now that Singer Girl is home for the summer, we invited her to go on one of our date nights. I’d been wanting to try the St Paul restaurant Estelle since pre-Covid, and we finally made it. Granted, it was cold and rainy and we had to sit outside, but good food, drinks and companions can compensate for pretty much anything!

All this yumminess makes me hungry — which is good, because we have dinner plans soon and I need to get ready! Hope you are having fun dating. Please let me know if you have any awesome suggestions for us to try!

(Oh: and if you haven’t already, please support my Bark in Your Park Fundraiser for Secondhand hounds! This weekend I pledged to walk 10 miles for the cause, and hopefully earn $7500 in pledges to help save more animal lives. Please donate here: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/stevie-nickss-landslide/donnitorres

Homes Sweet Homes

When I last posted about my Caribbean Beach babies, we were awfully close to adoptions. Well, I just wanted to give an update!

They moved into their forever homes almost a month ago, and everyone is so happy! I know people were worried about them being separated, but, as I suspected, they flourished apart. Within hours of Trillium leaving, Tulip realized that she was one her own and better start letting people love her. Whereas the day before she was fearful about us petting her, she was converting her struggles to snuggles by the evening! Interestingly, both girls have big sister’s who look a lot like them!

Trillium left first and moved in with her new mama Kim and big sister Gilly.

Her new name is Pearl, and, like her namesake, has come a long way from her rough beginnings! She has done great with her potty training, and has a fondness for chewing bones…and shoes…

Pearl and Gilly are very busy, with daily dog park visits and walks. They have a lot of fun together!

She likes meeting new people, but is a little shy, so would prefer to make the first move, according to her mama. She has learned some commands (and knows the word “treat” very well!).

Tulip retained her name, because, well, her big sister is named Daisy and that is too cute to not have two flower names!

Tulip was a little wary at first…

but she and Daisy connected quickly, and enjoy romping in the yard and wrestling. She enjoys getting to know the neighbor dogs as well!

As you can see from her pictures, they tandem sleep as well, lol.

Tulip is a bit slower to trust, which was how she was with us. She just recently worked up the courage to go for a walk — Mama August says it took her 20 minutes to go seven houses, because there was so much to smell! While she likes food, she is cautious about taking treats, so August is being very slow and patent with her training. Just what this little girl needs!

August has sent out Tulip’s DNA for testing, and Pearl’s will soon be in the mail. I think t will be fascinating to see how closely related they are, and how!

Thanks for all your support with them. I have a new foster now, a senior West Highland Terrier named Ebby. I’ll talk about her another time!

Oscar Say What?

So… that happened.

In Hollywood they often say that hosting the Academy Awards is the most thankless job. I think producing it has to be up there as well.

The producers are charged with giving us a show that entertains everyone in the world — every demographic, every age group. We want a glimpse into who these industry stars really are — but please: don’t take too long. Make it funny! But make it snappy. We want glamour, but no big production numbers, please. We can’t wait to hear what the winners have to say — as long as they agree with us and our political opinions. We really do want to know what it takes to be the best at the things we don’t understand; educate us, but don’t you dare school us. Cliff notes, please.

We want you to honor every single person who passed away last year, but again: we don’t have all night.

So, yeah: they failed.

They fail every year, because we all have a platform (so speaketh the person typing this for her own benefit), and we aren’t afraid to use it.

So I will be kind, because I know it is an impossible job.

The setting was stunning. Really: I want to have a party there. And Regina King’s walk into the show set us up for drama and glamour. Which we got — but not always how we’d liked to have had it.

I got a few texts during the show about how long it was taking. Keep in mind that they saved time in a ton of ways: having each presenter do two awards was smart. A more intimate venue meant walks were shorter (although I do miss the audience reaction shots). They didn’t show the songs or lots of movie clips or have any production numbers. Those last three things were negatives, IMO, even if they saved time.

The producers said they wanted to make the show more approachable to a younger generation. Ok. But if you want Gens Y and Z to pay attention, do it on the screen in their hands. Those cool personal tidbits about all the nominees, like about first jobs and favorite movies growing up? Release those as Insta stories or Tik Toks during the days leading up. Appeal to the college students studying to be cinematographers or actors or costume designers. And while I think it’s awesome to get the next generation involved, you can’t do it at the expense of the mainstays (like 50 something me).

A big complaint every year? The speeches. Every year I know my favorite speeches will not be form the big stars, but from the new people, who are so damn happy to be there. This year, two of the best speeches went to best supporting winners , Yuh-Jung Youn and Daniel Kaluuya. They were funny and sweet and gracious and grateful. Yuh-Jung Youn won hearts by both flirting with Brad Pitt and shaking her fingers at the many, many people who have butchered her name over the years. Kaluuya was joyful and his speech bounced around from exclamations of celebration to thankfulness for his parents for having sex. Watching his mom’s face when he said that? Priceless. That must’ve been a fun phone call later!

I wept when best international feature, Thomas Vinterberg, talked about Ida, his 19 year old daughter killed in a car accident days before shooting of the film began. It made me even more determined to see this movie, . Not seeing it was my one pre-Oscar regret I had.

Tyler Perry pulled no punches, saying what many have said, and what I firmly believe: “I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are black or white, or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I would hope we would refuse hate.”

He dedicated the award “to anyone who wants to stand in the middle, no matter what’s around the walls. Stand in the middle, because that’s where healing happens. That’s where conversation happens. That’s where change happens.”

The “In Memoriam” part is always controversial, as someone is always left out (this year Naya Rivera and Jessica Walter were the big omissions to most people). They tried to do a lot of people — but sadly, they went so fast many people, including my husband, complained they couldn’t read the names fast enough. This portion should be stately, not speedy. And coming on the heels of a year steeped in loss around the world, it made me uncomfortable. Were we skimming through this moment to replicate the many missed memorials and funerals last year? Is that a feeling we really want to replicate?

Looking away from what was, and looking towards what can be, Frances McDormand made a lovely speech when accepting the Best Picture award as a producer of Nomadland: “Please, watch our movie on the largest screen possible,” she said. “And one day, very, very soon, take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder to shoulder, in that dark space, and watch every film that is represented here tonight.”

I, for one, am very much looking forward to watching a movie in the theater again — even if it means I have to put on a bra.

Ok: enough chit chat. Let’s look at some pictures!

We might as well start with the biggest controversy — Best Actor. If you recall, I, like the rest of the world, thought Chadwick Bozeman was a lock — but I said Anthony Hopkins was brilliant (he was — and The Father was better than Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, IMO). Oscar was so sure that they changed the lineup and put Best Actor last. I actually had to rewind the show, sure I had somehow missed something when they announced Best Picture (they won’t make that mistake again). Anyway. Hopkins won best actor, but he wasn’t there so pics of his outfit (but google his acceptance speech released the next morning. Class). Here are our Best Actors in their finery:

Gary Oldman had fun with his ruffled blue shirt, Steven Yeun looked dapper (as expected), and Riz Ahmed looks yummy. The black turtleneck with the navy suit is fantastic.

Best Actress:

I picked Viola Davis to win this one, but she lost to Frances McDormand — but not in the fashion wars. Some of the best and worst looks of the night were in this category. Frances McDormand didn’t walk the red carpet, so there are no great pics of her — but that hair. For the love of God. That’s Pandemmy hair all right. Couldn’t someone hand her a comb? Viola Davis looks stunning, as always. But Id didn’t love the hair with it. Vanessa Kirby looks dreadful. The dress washes her out, and the goth makeup looks like something she might have worn to piss off her mom in high school. Andra Day was close to greatness (and not just with the nomination). The dress needed to be tailored. Wanna see how to glow in gold? Carey Mulligan was one of my favorites. Gorgeous.

Best Supporting Actor:

All originals here, and they all looked great in their own ways. I picked DanieI Kaluuya to win this category, and he did, but in this style context he was probably the most underwhelming, but he looks classy and his personality shines through. Lakeith Stanfield is just hot in a crazy 70s throwback kinda way. Leslie Odom Jr embraced the gold trend with aplomb. Impeccable. Honestly, I can’t pick a favorite. Paul Raci is exactly what I would want from a “seasoned” rocker. Sacha Baron Cohen looks amazing — so opposite of what his roles usually are!

Best Supporting Actress:

Many said Amanda Seyfried was on the best dressed list. I disagree. The dress is a wowser, and the styling works great, but I feel like the dress could’ve been tailored to be more flattering. Yes: I know she just had a baby, and she looks amazing. So play up the curves: bring that waist in one more inch if you can. If you can’t then structure the hips one inch wider and curvier to balance and accentuate her voluptuousness. Glenn Close: the color is great, but why the gloves? And either lose the pants and make it a dress, or shorten the “dress” hem. I was worried Maria Bakalova would be a mess, but I was wrong. She looks lovely — nothing to put her at the tip top of the list, but awfully close. Olivia Coleman’s amazeball shoes saved her — and the color of the ensemble sings as well. But there is just something off about the tailoring of the dress, and I’m not digging the hair. Winner Yuh-Jung Youn looks wonderful. Frances McDormand: this is how you embrace your grey, and wear a dark frock that doesn’t try too hard. This woman tried — and still looks comfortable. And: I picked her, and she won!

Red and white were big color themes this year!

And don’t forget all the other colors (because I never will)!

Halle Berry’s dress was bright and fun, but was overshadowed by too-short bangs and dark circles under her eyes. Is she ok?

Zendaya wowed and was at the top of many lists. Rightfully (and expectedly) so. I loved the dress, until I saw it from the front. Then the midriff opening looked way too big, like a yawning mouth. Bit in these shots she’s a stunner:

One of my absolute favorites of the night had to be H.E.R., who just may be a Prince reincarnation in more ways than one:

Other color moments:

I wanted to do a special shout out to Emerald Fennell. I was sure we’d see a lot of florals, and I was wrong. I also said I wanted her in green, and she delivered — with floral AND green. And being pregnant to boot (gotta love these pandemic babies that people get to hide in quarantine!). She was charming!

But let’s not overlook the neutrals, if we can call them that:

This group ran the gamut. Chloe Zhou…I mean, I get it. She’s not fussy. She wants to keep it simple. I’m not asking her to change who she is, but this dress in another color would have been better. Or a different dress with tennis shoes (if this dress had been white, and a different length, the shoes would’ve been great with it. No makeup? Fine, but know that you will be super washed out on TV. And her hair loose would have been better. Doesn’t have to be super styled: put those braids in the night before, and let ’em loose for the show. A whole different look. Wear the braids with a black jumpsuit and the tennis shoes. That would’ve been cute, comfy and easy.

Nicolette Robinson is the best of the bunch here. She, like Amanda Seyfried, recently had a baby. THIS is how you do it. The rest of the ladies like good. Not great, not awful, but good.

Speaking of Robinson, she is one half of a stunning couple. I love the trend of couples dressing together!

But the best dressed couple of the night? These guys, right here:

THE OSCARS® – The 93rd Oscars will be held on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby® Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and international locations via satellite. “The Oscars” will be televised live on ABC at 8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT and in more than 200 territories worldwide. (ABC) MARTIN DESMOND ROE, TRAVON FREE

I’d never heard of Martin Desmond Roe and Travon Free before they won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short for Two Distant Strangers. But I really wanna know them — and I want them to win more!

I also want to point out to “A”s that scored points with me: accessories, and architectural accents (is that three As?) Details can make or break an outfit. These two ladies had super cool purses:

A heart? And popcorn? I love it!

The following ladies stood out for design reasons — the construction of their garments felt almost architectural to me.

I know people hated Laura Dern’s feathery dress, but I didn’t. It wasn’t perfect (the top too austere for the fluffy bottom), but it was fun and classy to me. My two faves in the above group had to be costume designer Mia Neal’s amazing blue gown, and, of course, MISS Regina King. Or should we say Queen? Because she wore the crown. Hands down the best look of the night!

The men have turned it up big time in the past few years, and I almost look forward to seeing them more than the women. It is amazing how they have decided that the girls don’t get to have all the fun!

I thought I’d throw in a fun section: how it looked on the runway, vs how the stars wore it. Which ones were better?

Last but not least: the after parties. There weren’t as many this year, but let me leave you with some of the most memorable looks I found from those events. I hope you enjoyed my round up — I probably won’t have much to talk about regarding fashion for awhile. Looks like it’s back to doggies and date nights, lol!

I’m Ready for (watching) the Red Carpet!

FILE – In this Feb. 21, 2015 file photo, an Oscar statue appears outside the Dolby Theatre for the 87th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. The 93rd Oscars will be held on April 25. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

Silver lining from the pandemic: every Oscar nominated movie I tried to see was available for me to watch from my couch.

Don’t get me wrong: I desperately miss going to the movies. I hope to feel comfortable with that again soon, but I’m just not there yet. So yeah, while I had to shell out $20 to stream a flick sometimes, I figure it’s not that bad. During a normal movie watching season, I am in theaters 2-3 times a week at the end, trying to ignore the popcorn, maybe smuggling in my own water. But there is always gas, and time. So over all I feel I have saved cash, and have probably seen more movies than usual.

But now I am ready for the glamour and glitz. Below I will give my predictions as always (what I liked best plus who I think will win) in the major categories. I am also going to give some fashion predictions along the way. I don’t know if you are aware, but there is a dress code this year, born out of so many zoom awards participants in athleisure. I am torn on the code, as stated on the website The Cut:

“We’re aiming for a fusion of Inspirational and Aspirational,” the letter reads, capitalizing Inspirational and Aspirational for inspirational and aspirational emphasis. “In actual words,” it continues, “Formal is totally cool if you want to go there, but casual is really not.”

I expect at least one star to push this. I’d love to see joggers with a bustier, Christian Louboutins, and a cutaway coat with train (Zendaya could rock this, but I think she’ll go full on glam). But on the whole, I like the request to zhush it up. In solidarity, I will wear sparkly gems with my jammies. Maybe. But no promises on a bra. Let’s not go crazy.

And the winners will (maybe) be…

Best Picture (saw them all)

Nomadland continues to be the frontrunner, and will likely win. Every picture nominated is very different. My faves for this category are probably The Father and Judas and the Black Messiah. But I think this category tends to go to films that are not all about the acting performances, which those two films really were. Nomadland is message driven, with both sweeping panoramas and detail driven scenes, and has an overall best film vibe. Going with that theme, I also think Minari would fit, but I am going with Nomadland.

Best Director (haven’t seen Another Round yet): will be Chloe Zhao for Nomadland. She is just slaying all the awards this year, and deservedly so. She manages to get all of her actors to be fully fleshed out no matter how tiny their roles.

Fashion aside: I am looking forward to seeing Emerald Fennell! I fell in love with her in Call the Midwife, and she was wonderful in The Crown. She has such great coloring — I want to see her in something green, which is very much a trend color, and hard to pull off.

Best Adapted Screenplay (haven’t seen Borat, and have no desire to do so, TBH): I loved The Father in this category. I assume all of the films are adapted from books, except One Night in Miami which feels like a play. I don’t like when films feel like plays: it means that they weren’t very well adapted, IMO). The Father is just so well done. I can see how this was a book, and I would love to read it.

Best Original Screenplay (saw them all): this is tough. All are great premises. The ones based on history (Judas and The Trial of the Chicago Seven) don’t get my vote simply because, since they are based on real events, they’re not as “original” to me. I personally think the most original concept was Sound of Metal (please see this if you haven’t yet), but the momentum is there for Promising Young Woman (and I think Hollywood digs Emerald Fennell right now).

Best Actor (seen them all): We all know Chadwick Bozeman will win this. Like Heath Ledger, it’s fortunate that his last role was an excellent one. His talent will be missed. That said, I loved Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal! Watching a heavy metal drummer come to terms with losing his hearing, and still maintaining his sobriety, was breathtaking. Anthony Hopkins was brilliant as well (duh), with a finely nuanced performance as a man struggling with dementia (yes, I cried, and thought of my dad).

Fashion aside: the men have turned it up so hard in the past year! I hope Ahmed shows a little bit of metal edge. Hopkins and Gary Oldman will likely stay old school, which is fine. Steven Yeun is a wild card, but I assume he will be understated.

Best Supporting Actor: this one is a toughie. They were all good, of course, but no one actor stands out as that much better than the rest. I’m going to go with Daniel Kaluuya for Judas, as he has been picking up awards all season.

Fashion aside: this category will BRING.IT. I’m picturing colors and brocades and metallics. And I am here for it!

Best Actress: collective wisdom says Frances McDormand, and I wouldn’t be angry if she won. But I feel like she has played this before. Viola Davis is a good, solid choice, but I didn’t love this role. Maybe I just didn’t love Ma Rainey? My fave performance of the bunch was Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman. Twisted, sad, smart, broken, vengeful. What more could you want in a date? So I’d like her to win, but am leaning towards Davis right now. Ask me in an hour.

Fashion aside: I hope McDormand wears Birkenstocks again. David will be stunning in something tight, architectural and brightly colored. I want sex appeal from Vanessa Kirby and frothy fun from Mulligan!

Best Supporting Actress: (didn’t see Borat or Hillbilly Elegy, which got wretched reviews): While I personally loved Olivia Colman in The Father, I think Yuh-Jung Youn will win for Minari. And she earned it for sure!

Fashion aside: Amanda Seyfried will be lovely. Olivia Colman can go either way, but I hope she pulls it off with some regal, deeply colored creation. I would love to see something dramatically elegant on Youn! Maria Bakalova could be stunning, but she might be the one to push the taste envelope. I don’t know whay I say that, but I feel it.

Best Cinematography (saw them all): News of the World was almost my favorite in this category, although sometimes teh green screen action seemed pretty obvious. But Hollywood does loves it’s sweeping westerns. Nomadland could win, though, and has more momentum than this overdone Tom Hanks film (that movie tried to fit too much in. Too bad. Was a good story). So I think it’s gonna be Nomadland. You see and feel every season in this film.

Best Costume Design (didn’t see Pinnochio): I’m a sucker for a period piece, so I am hoping it’s Emma, with its delicious colors.

Fashion aside: Please, let Anya-Taylor Joy be at the Oscars, just so I can see her. She is gorgeous, and makes such wonderful fashion choices.

Best Film Editing (seen them all): Either The Father or Sound of Metal, but I am leaning towards The Father. The editing makes this movie.

All the rest, even though I have seen none or very few of the movies, but I like to have a guess for all:

Best Animated Feature: Soul

Best Documentary Feature: My Octopus Teacher

Best Documentary Short: A Concerto is a Conversation

Best International Feature Film: Another Round

Best makeup and Hairstyling: HIllbilly Elegy

Best Original Score: Soul

Best Original Song: One Night in Miami

Best Production design: The Father

Best Short, Animated: If Anything Happens I Love You

Best Short, Live Action: The Letter Room

Best Sound: Sound of Metal

Best Visual Effects: Tenet

Fashion aside: there will be a lot of florals tonight, on men and women. I want to see risks (I miss Cher). I want glamour and color. I want to gasp. I want to see people fall flat on their faces for trying something daring — not because they had crappy tailoring or accessorizing.

People, you’ve had 12 months of zoom calls in sweatpants. We are all over it. Y’all better bring it.

Dated

Haven’t posted about our date nights lately, so I here goes a multi-month dump!

(For those who don’t know the background: when Singer Girl left for college in fall 2018, HWSNBN looked at me and said “we’re in a rut.” Guess dinner on the couch Netflixing wasn’t keeping the love alive. But I was exhausted from always being the planner, and fighting for something new to do. Thus the plan was hatched: we alternate planning date nights, and the other person has no say in what we do. We all know how it goes? What do you wanna do? I dunno, what do you wanna do? Let’s do this. Nah. How about that? Eh. And so on. Now we just tell the other person what to wear and when to be ready!)

We didn’t go out so much during the months that our kids were visiting (December-February), and there was one big extended date night in February that I’ll talk about in a later post. But we managed to find some moments to date, albeit pandemically. In December we did a few drive-by things, including light displays at Sovereign Estates Winery in Waconia and inflated animals at the Minnesota Zoo. TBH, the first was more interesting, while the second was underwhelming.

I was thrilled when things started opening up so we could have more options for fun. On one of my weekends, we visited the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis. I hadn’t been there since I was a field trip chaperone for my son in elementary school. This small but detailed place focuses on science and technology and is very interactive. It’s housed partially inside a beautiful old house, and is located on the shores of Lake Bde Maka Ska. We agreed this would be a stunning place to have an event. We had fun making music, watching the Mary Shelley Frankenstein exhibit, and especially going on the hunt” for hidden Lego figurines (all the figurines represented famous people in science).

Next weeked it was his pick, and we wandered the beautiful Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen. We’d never been at this time of the year. You’d think it would be boring, with nothing blooming. But it made it easier to see things, and we found areas we’d never explored before. I’m so glad I gave him a membership for Christmas. We need to go back every month to see the changes! I really loved being there with all the maple syrup harvesting!

We both love looking at homes, so for my next pick we visited several of the pricier homes on the Parade of Homes. It’s always interesting to see what people highlight in new construction. We usually found something here and there, whether it was a really cool light fixture, a second “parallel” kitchen (that was cool) behind the main one, or a stunning view. We rarely find a home that we would trade for the one we have, and that’s a good feeling.

For our last March date, HWSNBN booked us a great one. We went to REM5, a virtual reality “parlor” in St Louis Park. I went first, and found myself under the ocean, touching sea anemones and coming this close to a passing whale. He tried golf and football. Then I got back up, and attempted a cooking show. Maybe our fave one was Google Earth. Sounds dull, but we were able to fly over places we’d visited, retracing steps n favorite vacations in places like Rome. Then we “visited” Sailor Boy’s new location in Sicily. We were just about to see our childhood haunts when time ran out. Guess we have to go back!

For awhile for dinners it was takeout like the yummy spicy crispy goodness from North Coop. Or we had to eat outside, even in a Minnesota winter. It wasn’t that bad, as long as you dressed for it!

Once restaurants and bars were allowed to open their doors, we rushed in (safely, of course). Thanks for the food, fun and hospitality to the following places: Tequila Butcher, Hazelwood, Birches on the Lake, Pub 819, Constantine, and Whiskey and Soda.

How are you spending date nights? Do you have any suggestions for us? We’ve already had fun in April — with more to come! Stay tuned!

Pupdate!

We’ve now had Tulip and Trillium, my little beach baby foster puppies from St Thomas, USVI, almost 6 weeks. People who meet them for the first time feel sad, and worry about how far they have to go yet. But folks who have seen them more than once marvel at the transformation!

They have had lots of doggy exposure. We have had several canine houseguests: Ginger, a mini doodle, stayed with us for a week. She was more unsure of the pups than they were of her, but after a few days it was crazy play time!

A few days later, dog-in-law Monte, and former foster Lyle, both large goldendoodles, had a 36 hour playdate. When Lyle the Wild came charging into the house (he’s just a year old), T and T screamed in terror and peed everywhere. Three hours later, they were best buds.

Lyle and Trillium had what can only be called a connection. In fact, they were so keen on each other they made everyone else feel uncomfortable. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing they are both fixed. Those would’ve been some weird looking puppies!

While they still aren’t cuddly lap dogs, we can get some good scratches and pets in. Trillium especially will allow belly rubs. We think she is more used to being held, as we had to give her eye drops twice a day for a minor eye infection. After a few days of chasing her about, she gave up and let us pick her up. We made sure to give lots of lovies when we did it, and rewarded her with whipped cream when done. So now she is more likely to allow contact, even if she isn’t always relaxed. We decided to start “force” cuddling Tulip more, to see if we can convince her that human contact is a good thing. Hopefully in a few days she will be better about it. But right now she cowers with terror, and we have to really make it worth her while (lots of ear scratches, belly rubs, and cheese).

On the training front, we are spending more time outside. They love being there, but hate getting there (ie: being leashed and carried outside). They need to start recognizing that the reward is greater than the punishment, lol. Many dogs are skittish on leashes, especially at the beginning. I don’t want to force too much, as I don’t want to create future leash aggression issues. So as much as I’d like to take them for a walk, I don’t think they are there yet.

In the meantime, we have had several meet and greets. All guests are handed a baggy of kibble to toss around like breadcrumbs for pigeons. The first time someone came to the house, they barked insanely and it took a really long time for them to accept the human. But each time someone comes over, the pups take less and less time to warm up to them. Mind you, they aren’t coming up to visitors for physical contact, but they will take food out of patient hands!

I had two good adopters back out. One family’s circumstances changed during the process, and they weren’t going to be able to give Tulip the time she needs and deserves. Trillium’s withdrew when they realized that their busy city neighborhood would likely be too much for a shy dog. She has another good prospect, who has now visited twice, once with their dog. Monday I will visit their home with Trillium to see how the pup does with a strange dog on her turf. I assume Trillium will cower in a corner, and probably pee a little, lol.

Tulip has two good options right now. Like with Trillium, we did first visits at my house with no dogs. Last night, the first couple brought their scruff-muffin, Weasley, over for a how-do-you-do butt sniff. Weasley was more interested in checking out our yard than playing with the dogs, but that’s ok. I’d rather have a dog that ignores Tulip than one who charges up with even friendly enthusiasm. Tonight we are meeting the second adopter, who is bringing her dog Daisy. If this one goes well, I have to decide if I want to do round 3 with both or just one. I havean on paper preference right now, but need to see how the dogs do before I proceed.

Until decision day, we have a routine.

Their days are full of naps,

wrestling,

naps,

destruction,

and more naps.

Keep your paws crossed that I will be posting an “adoption pending” pupdate soon!

Grammy Got Style

The Grammy’s are not typically the fashion highpoints of the award season year, but it is fun to see a slightly different approach to red carpets.

TBH, I’ve never heard of about 85% of the people whose pictures I will share here. I kinda stopped caring about the Grammys when they stopped caring about music that isn’t created through autotune and other mechanical manipulations. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be fascinated by the way the artists choose to dress up!

The fellas of the music world always turn it up. From subtle to, well, NOT, they dance to their own tunes,

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 14: DaBaby attends the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy )

Da Baby had one of my favorite looks of the night, male or female! However, on the opposite side of the interesting meter was Jack Antonoff. I mean, maybe this is his shtick? I don’t know the guy, but this look reads vaguely 1950s nerd, and not in a hot way.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 14: Jack Antonoff attends the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy )

BTS has shown themselves to be huge fashionistas. They always make an effort. This communal look was not one of their bests, IMO, but they still look great!

Other standout looks (for better or for worse…)

A few last guys that need a mention. Showing up probably to promote their new fashion line, Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars make 70s chic current, and they always look like they are having a ball.

Harry Styles is a fashion icon — a modern day Mick Jagger. The boa here may have been Gucci, but it looked like he picked it up off the floor of a strip club (his leather suit to perform in later was so hot, though!)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 14: Harry Styles attends the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy )

Lastly, this guy is all style. Kaytranada is evidently a Canadian DJ, and he managed to look polished enough for an awards show, but hip enough for it to be the Grammy’s.

Not very women rocked the pants look, but I liked what I saw.

Looking like a better version of most of us watching at home, Chika looked fun.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 14: Chika attends the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy )

And HER was channeling her inner Lenny Kravitz in a very good way.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 14: H.E.R. attends the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy )

But this trio I didn’t get. They should get pointers from BTS in the “we look cohesively cool” department. Why does this picture make me feel uncomfortable? Haim needs a new stylist — and an iron.

One duo that rocked it out of the park were Chloe + Halle. I saved their pictures without even realizing they were a duo — and then realized that side by side they looked similar enough and yet unique. Brava, ladies.

There’s a fine line between sexy and trashy, and often the devil is in the details and teh dollars. If something looks cheap, too shiny or ill-fitting, you are not going t look good. Oh: and accesories can make all teh difference.

Imma start with the Beyonce. Woman has money and class — no one can deny it. So what happened???

If she had slicked back her hair, the dress might’ve been forgivable. Worn those cool earrings with a simpler dress? Yep. That hair? Sorry. Donna Summers wore it better (sorry Bee Hive…)

Mapy looks like she just got off the street corner, pairing those boots with that dress, wearing black underwear that shows through the cheap thin fabric, and that hair…oh honey…

She should take some pointers from Dua Lipa, who did sheer — and shine — right. Channeling Cher a little bit, right?

And Lizzo. Oh I adore her, I do. But these dresses came off the clearance rack at some cheap mall store after prom season ended.

If I had to pick one, I’d pick the pink dress with the hair in the green outfit. Shiny rarely looks good.

Here are a few women who tried the shiny look, and didn’t quite make a home run IMO.

The fit goes feels wrong for me — and Miranda Lambert looks like her dress was made out of leftover holiday gift wrap from a Project Runway challenge. Maren Morris just looks like she’s going to bed.

There were a few women whose sparkle I took a shine to. The secret? Texture.

Nian Parker (in silver) looks like a medieval knight in a ll that chainmail. Mickey Guyton looks more like an Oscar than a Grammy, but I’m not complaining. Those shoulders made the dress fresh. And I don’t know what the rest of the outfit looks like, but from this angle, Keltie Knight did it right.

Earler I mentioned not liking the sheerness Basic black is always a safe bet — even if you take risks.

One performer who tried to do the black and white theme well, but didn’t, was Julia Michaels. This sad dress looks like a bunch of forest fungi not having a fun time.

Grammy’s fashion rules don’t exist — so short dresses are just fine! I like all 3 of these dresses, but Juliana Rancic shouldn’t match her dress to her hair — or style her hair like that.

For our last looks at the Grammy’s we’ll go haute couture. Some worked, and some should be fired. These three I hated.

And these two I loved!

We have more than a month until the Oscars. They recently released the rules, which say formal dress, and no zoom calls, and only nominees can attend. My guess is that increases the pressure significantly on all those who care. Let’s hope they — and the stylists and designers — are up to the task!

Fashion is Back

I don’t know about you, but I miss dressing up. Mind you. my body definitely looks like I have spent the past 12 months wearing sweatpants and binging every BBC series I could find, but my shoes still fit. And I am ready to dust off the Spanks and get fancy again, even if it means ballgowns in the produce aisles (with a bedazzled mask, of course).

The stars are ready, too, if the award shows of the past week are any indication. I haven’t seen many of the movies on everyone’s ballots, but I am getting there. In the mean time, I’ll ooh and ah and raise an eyebrow or two at the fashions, zoomed and in person, twinkling at me from my computer screen.

Both the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice awards happened in the past week. As always, I loved some looks, hated others, and my opinions don’t matter. But it sure is fun!

A lot of women chose dresses for one ceremony, then felt pants were more suited to the next occasion.

Kaley Cuoco went from ultra fem, to sparkly manly. I love both looks equally!

Angela Basset: two looks, same closet. Neither is that unique, but I like the tux better, as the other one had too much going on with the braid and the feathers. Plus: I really want a sequin tux in my OWN closet!

Unlike the critics, I hated the white dress (almost no one looks good in those drop waist numbers). The second look is the bomb, Andra Day.

Gal Godot looks wonderful in both looks, but the white dress could’ve been worn out to dinner. The ruffled jumpsuit is such a perfect combination of feminine flounce and tailored menswear, it’s hard to beat. I would look like Reddi-Whip had exploded on me if I had tried to pull it off, but she does it Justice (out of my League, lol).

Amanda Seyfried and Kaley Cuoco may have called each other. “Girl, let’s be old school Hollywood glam for the Globes, then look like 1920s Vaudeville magicians at the Critics Choice Awards.” And they both pulled it off. For this lineup, the tux is absolutely tops — chandelier crystals and all. If I ever get back to Vegas, I would love to wear this!

As for Kyra Sedgwick: I also prefer the pants outfit (although I love the mustard color on the dress). The satin is so glam.

I don’t know if you can call the black number a dress, but it feels different enough from the floral look to fit this category. O’Hara reminds us that women who reach a certain age figure out what they like, and what works for them, and they stick with it. And rather than looking like a boring uniform, it works. I wanna be her when I grow up!

It seems many women chose the pants route, and I am here for it.

Before we get away from pants, let’s check out some of the best-dressed men of the nights, IMO.

I’ve had a thing for Josh O’Connor since The Durrels in Corfu (haven’t seen it? You should!). He’s clearly comfortable showing far more style than his The Crown alter ego ever would!

Other masculine highlights:

Every season there are color themes. Red is often a tough one to wear on a carpet of the same hue, but when you are zooming, you can stand on whatever color you want. Here are some of the crimson crew.

I’m not sure which was my fave. I love Rosamund Pike (combat boots and tulle? Yes, please) and Daisy Edgar (the sleeves, the neckline, the hemline!). The least successful of this bunch was definitely Maya Rudolph. Nothing about this looks well done — the seam down the middle? Makes it look like a home ec project. If you want to be loose and comfy, that’s fine. But even a slight dip in the neckline would have given her more shape.

Perhaps my least favorite look of the week was Bryce Dallas Howard.

Her bra was bad. Her hair was pulled back too tight. The light color by her face was unflattering. She just looked uncomfortable. Maybe if the ombre had started at her waist?

Wanna see women who loved the way they looked? Check out Viola Davis and Regina King!

I love it when women go out on a fashion limb. Julia Gardner, Emma Corrin and Cynthia Erivo are a new generation of fashion risk takers, channeling the haute couture example of women like Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson and Tilda Swinton.

Speaking of Paulson…

I mean, even her cast looks cool.

Black and white are always common awards show themes.

Some of those may not have been exactly black or white, but that’s okay. Navy and cream count (it’s my blog).

Bold color will always have my heart, even if the style isn’t always the greatest (I’m looking at you, Kristen Wiig).

Anya Taylor-Joy is someone to watch, both on screen and on the carpet. She is stunning and quirky and I can’t take my eyes off her.

I 100% prefer the green look. It is sumptuous! The purple one reminds me of some old school lingerie. I am not sure I love the bodice (not nearly as flattering as the green one), but kudos to her for taking the risk. Please take more!

I’ll end with three of my favorite looks.

First, Gillian Anderson.

A far cry from both Scully and Margaret Thatcher!

Susan Kelechi Watson wore the look I wanted to own the most. It’s modern day flapper, with color and movement and shine to die for.

And for completely different reasons, Sandra Oh stole my heart.

You go girl. Or don’t. Stay home and be comfy and cute and awesome.

From Beaches to Snowbanks

I hadn’t taken on a new foster since before the pandemic, and I was itching for one. So I got two.

Not just any two. And not just from anywhere. We flew down to St Thomas, USVI, and brought back two scaredy dogs.

It started with an email to our International Program Coordinator. Did we have any contacts there? Could she find me some dogs to bring back? She was worried that it would be tough with the late notice, especially since we didn’t have established contacts there, but she’d try.

Meanwhile, we were on vacation, and I happened to strike up a conversation with a boat captain. He told me he was good friends with someone who worked with the St Thomas Humane Society I asked for her contact info, and reached across the aisle.

Did they think we could make it happen? They, too, weren’t sure. But they have a robust international program called Pets With Wings so are very experienced, and they got on the task.

The next few days were full of calls, texts and emails. Could we take cats? Dogs? Bonded pairs? Any breed restrictions? They were feeling us out, as they needed to know they could trust us. Luckily the organizer has heard of Secondhand Hounds and was willing to take a chance on us — and me.

When you travel with a dog to be adopted, there are lots of restrictions. May depend on the airline, and each airline might have different restrictions and requirements depending on where the flight originated. For example: I needed animals small enough to fit in carriers under the seat in front to me; they couldn’t be too young; they had to be healthy. So Rhea worked her magic in the Caribbean, and Taylor finagled from the cold, bold North. And Tammy met me at the airport.

Meet Tulip and Trillium, sisters (presumably from different misters) who were trapped as part of the island’s save the strays program.

The girls are about 4 months old, and scared of everything. Tammy was especially worried that we would try to rush them into acclimating, but I reassured her we would take it slowly.

We got all checked into our Delta flight (they were awesome).

The pups were drowsy thanks to a little Benadryl, and settled into the flight easily. We never heard a peep from them for the whole six hour flight.

When we got them home, I let them out of their carriers, and let them wander into the house on their own. Well, Tulip walked in, took her first right and found my dog’s kennel. Trillium frantically followed, and there they stayed. All night. No interest in food or water, and definitely not interested in the humans. When Stevie Nicks sniffed at them through the door, Tulip growled a little, but that was it. We all went to bed.

On our first full day with them, I began Operation Ignore the Dogs. When you have super skittish pups, they need to learn to trust you. Who knows what these babies endured in their little lives! They were not aggressive at all, but would cower whenever I tried to approach them.

They stuck around the laundry room (that’s where their kennel domain is), ad got busy catching up on what they didn’t do the day before: eat, drink, poop, pee.

Repeat.

If I tried to approach the kennel, they would press their bodies against the back wall and scratch like they were trying to escape.

Periodically I would come in the room and lay down prone on the floor, stick my hand in the kennel, and not look at them. It took awhile, but eventually Trillium, the black one, would do a cautious sniff — then a scurry.

The next day they decided to explore. First they discovered my closet, which is attached to the laundry room. That was interesting with its piles of unwashed vacation laundry. Then they expanded their horizons, going into the adjoining bathroom, then our bedroom. I decided to try something: I scattered kibble down the long hallway to the main part of the house. As long as they couldn’t see or hear me, they would nibble and follow the trail.

When in my office, which shares a wall with that hallway I could hear scampering feet, so knew they were getting braver. A peek around the corner discovered playing puppies! Things like that were big steps I knew If they felt comfortable enough to let their guard down and play, even for a second, we were making progress.

They discovered a dog bed in the great room.

Decided that was cool — but not awesome enough to stick around when they saw me. Back to the kennel!

The next day they decided they were obsessed with Stevie Micks. Not like, hey, she seems cool, maybe we could hang” way. But as in an OMIGODWHERE HAVE YOU BEEN WHERE AE YOU GOING? CAN WE TOUCH YOU? way. They would just flirt mercilessly, curling their bodies and lowering to the ground, frantically wagging tails and bowed ears.

Stevie thought they were weird. She kept escaping outside, which stressed them out terribly. They would cry and whine when she left, certain that the great glass portal door had swallowed her up for all eternity, never to return. I didn’t need to with the door when she wanted back in: the puppies would whine and scratch and jump around — until I walked over. Then they would sprint to the other room, torn between fear for me and lust for Stevie.

I started using that lust to my advantage. I’d put my had out for sniffs when they wanted her back in. Sometimes it worked, but rarely.

They started being naughty: dragging things from suitcases. Chewing slippers. Trillium realized she could jump on the couch. Tulip, a good 5 pounds heavier and three inches taller, wouldn’t get there for a few days. Taunting ensued.

We decided to see how they would do outside. We don’t have a fenced yard, so double-leashing was a must. That’s tricky, when they don’t let us near. But we managed, and out we all went.

They had a ball! Who knew little beachy babies would love the snow? Of course, the main quest was attempting closeness with Stevie, who loves to run and chase and knock puppies over. They were all in. Until, of course, I decided they had been barefoot in the snow for long enough. HWSNBN managed to grab Trillium, who screamed like she was being gutted. I used Stevie to lure Tulip in, so that was a little less dramatic but no less stressful. We have not tried the front yard since.

They prefer napping, anyway.

I have tried to get them used to the leash, by coating it with peanut butter and laying it on the ground. I don’t think they hate the leash — they just hate us getting close enough to put them on (and God forbid we hold the end when we do get them on). I’m going to reach out to the SHH trainers for advice on that.

We’ve had them now almost two weeks. Occasionally I can get close enough to pet or scratch them, but they certainly don’t relax when I do. I wish I could start house training them, but that’s just going to have to wait until we get more trust. I’d also love to get them outside for walks, but again, we seem to be a ways away for that. There may come a day when I decide to separate them, but I don’t think they are there yet, I don’t know that they are relying on each other exactly, so that may not be necessary. I am not ready for them to go up on the website yet: if they won’t let me touch them, bring potential adopters into the house could be traumatic.

I am not frustrated: I have four months of fear to overcome. I am sad they are missing out on walks and pets and cuddles, but all of a sudden one day it will click, and there will be no turning back. I know that they have lives of love ahead of them! And I know that if not for the valiant efforts of rescuers almost 2,500 miles apart, they would most likely have ended up with terrible lives.

So for now, I will continue to throw kibble around, and hope that one day they will look at me with as much joy as they do Stevie Nicks!

If you would like to save a dog or cat when you travel next, and live in the Minnesota area, click here for more information. If you are not in our area, contact your local rescue, or find a rescue in the country you are visiting.

Bye Bye Bremerton

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.”

Yup.

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.

Lovely.

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.

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