Every Page I Turn

Another name from my adolescence died recently — the author, Judith Krantz. I think her first big hit was Princess Daisy, and it was chock full of all the sex and shopping that fascinated an almost teenager. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to read books like that, but I did. All the time. In secret.

When my mom would go to work, I would go into her room and read whatever book she had on the nightstand. I was oh so careful to put the bookmark back in the right place! I was often frustrated that she didn’t read as quickly as I did. I wanted a new book to read all the time!

My favorite Krantz book was Scruples, published in 1978.  Publishing companies say it single-handedly create the excessive-lifestyle genre. Can you imagine that publishing company meeting when they got that manuscript? In my opinion, it not only spawned a new era of books, but it might also be the catalyst for tv shows like Dallas and Dynasty, which lead us to today’s Keeping up with The Kardashians.

Judith Krantz was but one of the illicit authors I coveted. Another fave was Jackie Collins, whose book Chances (1981) spawned a series of books that I followed with fervor. I wanted to be Lucky Santangelo when I grew up! An earlier book, The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon, also captured my attention, although not as naughty. It was thrilling in a way the books I had loved as a child did not.

Reading has been an integral part of my life since I was a child in the way that sports or the arts are for other kids, and it got me in trouble a lot.  My first memory about reading was in kindergarten. My teacher, Mrs, Greenfield, gave us all a big reading book filled with stories to read over the course of the year. I remember one day I got in trouble because I wasn’t doing silent reading like the rest of the kids. I told her I’d already read it. She gently corrected me, saying that we were starting a new story today. I corrected her, saying that I had read all the stories. She didn’t believe me, of course,  but I was emphatic.  She quizzed me on a few stories, and quickly realized that I was being honest — and that she had to come up with a new curriculum for me!

I fell in love with so many books over the years — Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was one of my cherished possessions. I read every Little House on the Prairie book and even competed in a school speech contest entitled “My Favorite Character,” where I talked about introducing Laura Ingalls Wilder to today’s world. At night I would “sleep” with the door cracked open, furtively reading by the hallway light. Years later I would actually be grounded from reading, as my parents thought I spent to much time inside with my nose buried in a book.

My love affair with reading has never abated. I am busy in a book club of course and read several books each month — sometimes simultaneously. I must read in bed before I sleep, much to my husband’s frustration (he swears he can’t sleep with the light on, but his snoring tells me otherwise).

You won’t get me reading on an e-reader. Only real paper books for me. I have notebooks full of synopses all the books I have read over the past 10 years or so and have a long wait list at the library. I have an even longer to-read list tucked int the current notebook. I am super active on the website Goodreads (you can follow me there if you like!). Currently, I am reading two books: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillip Sendker for my book club, and Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household by Adrian Tinniswood for me.

When I finish an especially engrossing book, I often feel a sense of loss, as those characters are now gone forever. When I find a favorite author, I am compelled to read everything they have ever written.  And if that author passes away, I mourn the books they will never write for me. Pat Conroy, famous for novels such as The Great Santini and Prince of Tides, and James Clavell, who penned the Sho-Gun series, are two whose deaths I felt intimately.

So now I have lost another. Granted, I haven’t read a Judith Krantz novel in decades, but her death has brought me back to such memories that I can’t help but feel a sense of loss. I think, in her honor, I will head to my library and check out a couple vintage beach reads — after, of course, I get through the 8 library books currently on my nightstand. And I don’t have to hide any of them!

 

 

 

Just over 60 days Until we Stuff our Faces

The Great Minnesota Get Together is a tradition on a stick — not to be missed! It does frankly herald the end of summer, so I hesitate to chat about it already. However.

This week they announced the New State Fair Foods. And for me and my group, like many others, the fair and the food are synonymous.

And this year’s list of new foods? Some excite me, some revolt me, and some I don’t care one way or the other about. Full disclosure: I love spicy. I hate seafood. I like chocolate. I hate super sweet.  So what sounds great to me may not turn on your tastes buds. But every year I plot out a gluttonous course, and our group endeavors to tackle as much food as possible, both the new and the old faves (with a few choice adult beverages thrown in). Here’s my take:

Cheesy Sriracha Funnel Cake Bites (Funnel Cakes): Bite-sized funnel cake pieces infused with a blend of Parmesan, Romano and mozzarella cheeses, deep-fried and finished with a sprinkle of sharp cheddar and chives, and served with homemade Sriracha aioli dipping sauce. Ranch or garlic butter dipping sauce is also available. I love this one because it is so unique (why didn’t anyone think of this before?). I usually don’t sickly-sweet funnel cakes after a bite or two — but give me crunchy, cheesy, spicy goodness and I am yours forever.

The Top 10 I am most excited to try:

Blueberry Key Lime Pie (Farmers Union Coffee Shop): Yes, a dessert is topping my list. But it’s a dessert focussing on tart, not sweet! Blueberry Key lime filling in a graham cracker crust, topped with whipped cream and fresh blueberries. This sounds divine!

 Carolina Pit-Smoked Brisket Taco (Shaghai’d Henri’s): Beef brisket pit-smoked over hickory charcoal, shredded and topped with smoked Gouda cheese, a pickled kale crunch made with kale, Brussels sprouts, carrots, radicchio, napa, and red cabbage, with a drizzle of BBQ sauce; served in a flour tortilla with tortilla chips. So many veggies, you might consider it healthy (is that allowed at the Fair?)

The Hot Hen (R’C’s BBQ): BBQ chips topped with smoked pulled buffalo chicken, blue cheese fondue, pickled jalapeños, tomatoes, green onions and blue cheese crumbles. Girl, you had me at blue cheese fondue.

Fried Tacos On-A-Stick (Taco Cat): Two stuffed tacos – one filled with green chorizo and potatoes and one filled with a vegetarian black bean and corn mix – deep-fried, topped with crumbled cheese and a drizzle of guacamole salsa and served on-a-stick. I love tacos, especially with chorizo. This one sounds awesome but has the ability to be a letdown (why do midwesterner put potatoes in tacos?). Only available Aug. 28 – Sept. 2, so get there early!

Wingwalker Donut Flight (The Hangar): An assortment of hot, deep-fried cake donut holes and three syringes with DIY fillings – Bavarian cream, chocolate custard, and Minnesota lingonberry jam. Probably sweeter than I like, but the novelty makes me want to try it!

Jamm’in Brisket Grilled Cheese (RC’s BBQ): Slow-smoked brisket, red onion jam, cheddar, and pepper jack cheeses and RC’s hot BBQ sauce. This sounds delish! From the folks bringing us the Hot Hen (remember the blue cheese?). I anticipate long lines at this stand!

Deep-Fried Dilly Dog (Swine & Spuds): Pickle stuffed with bratwurst, dipped in batter and deep-fried. Makings of a classic. Not too wild, but I bet it’s good!

Lavender Lemonade (Farmers Union): Pink lemonade made with fresh lavender leaves. Bet a shot of vodka would be delish in this! I just hope it doesn’t taste like soap

Carnitas Taco Cone (San Felipe Tacos): Carnitas with a sesame-garlic ginger sauce, cabbage, lime and queso fresco, topped with green onion and sour cream and served in a deep-fried cone-shaped tortilla. Is it Mexican? Or is it Asian? My taste buds will be the judge of that.

Feta Bites (Dino’s Gyros): Deep-fried Greek pasta dough stuffed with feta cheese, cream cheese and Dino’s Greek seasoning. Served with a creamy olive tapenade. The more I think about it, the more I think I will like this.

If I have room still:

Turkish Pizza (Blue Moon Dine-In Theater): A cracker-thin flatbread, with spicy minced beef, onion, tomato, lettuce, cucumber salad, parsley, fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon and garlic sauce, then rolled or folded. I’m intrigued.

Nordic Waffles Al Pastor variety (Nordic Waffles):  Mexican-style marinated pork, pineapple, onions, cilantro and salsa verde. Sounds better than their other offering, which I mention later. I’m not usually a fan of fruit in my meat dishes, but I’d try this.

Deep Fried Cookie Dough (Kora’s Cookie Dough):  deep-fried chocolate chip cookie dough topped with powdered sugar and chocolate drizzle; also serving cookie dough on-a-stick in five flavors: classic chocolate chip, Grandma’s sugar cookie, monster cookie, Reese’s peanut butter, and Oreo fudge. Highly likely we will try — one bite.

Cuban Fusion Fajita (Juanita’s Fajitas): Carnitas-style roast pork, deli-sliced ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and Juanita’s Fajitas’ signature mustard folded into a flour tortilla. Not entirely original (it’s a Cubano in a tortilla), but sounds good. Will try it if the line is short — but this part of the fair is usually late in the day for us, so might not make the cut. 
No Bologna Coney (Mancini’s Al Fresco) Italian mortadella pork sausage flavored with pistachios and Mancini’s pepper blend, served on a buttered and toasted split-top bun, and topped with mild muffuletta olive and pepper salad. Eh. Probably good, but doubt I’ll be hungry enough at this point of the fair.

Bada Bing Sandwich (The Sandwich Shop): Italian-inspired warm flatbread sandwich with ham, salami, melted mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, fresh basil and creamy balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Again: on an ordinary day I would be all over this. But the Fair is not an ordinary day.

Boozy Berries & ‘Barb Trifle (The Hideaway Speakeasy): Five-layer cold trifle with vanilla pound cake, lemon curd, Cannon River Gris wine and blueberry compote, more pound cake and Gris and rhubarb compote, topped with mint-infused fresh whipped cream and Gris and blueberry coulis. I am intrigued, but fearful.  I dislike rhubarb, But there’s wine. So maybe it’ll be good! Been meaning to try this bar anyway! 

Duck Drummies (Giggles Campfire Grill): Duck wings coated in a batter and seasoning blend, deep-fried and served with Giggles’ own tequila lime dipping sauce. Hmmm. I like duck if it’s done well. But this might be heavy-handed. I will try it though!

Tipsy Pecan Tart (Sara’s Tipsy Pies): Pecan pie infused with Dubliner Irish Whiskey and baked in a buttery shortbread shell. Gluten-free. I don’t like whiskey or pecan pie. So there ya go.

Peaches n’ Cream Nachos (Bridgeman’s Ice Cream): A bed of cinnamon sugar pita chips with Bridgeman’s Peaches n’ Cream ice cream, peach topping, a drizzle of honey and crushed pecans, finished with whipped cream, a cherry and a dusting of cinnamon sugar. I like peaches, and I love nachos, but I just know this will hurt my teeth.

Warm Cheesecake Tart (Lulu’s Public House): Cheesecake in a tart crust served warm with choice of chocolate, salted caramel or strawberry glaze or without topping. Probably good, but nothing I can’t get somewhere else.

 Irish Whiskey Boneless Wings (O’Gara’s): white chicken chunks, breaded, deep-fried, tossed in Irish whiskey BBQ sauce and garnished with chopped scallions. I prefer my wings with bones. Also: if this was from a different vendor I’d be more excited (although I don’t think it’s particularly creative). I haven’t loved O’Gara’s offerings in the past few years. 

Snow Cap Mini Waffle Sundae (Hamline Church Dining Hall): Mini waffle topped with a scoop of Izzy’s cream cheese ice cream, warm real maple syrup and a maraschino cherry. I don’t need a dessert for breakfast — or vice versa.

Halo Cone (Rainbow Ice Cream):  A swirled blend of cotton candy and blue raspberry soft serve ice cream in a halo of vanilla cotton candy and sprinkled with a mix of candy toppings. They basically did this last year. I liked it a lot, but it doesn’t seem like a new food.

Stuffed Cabbage Roll (iPierogi): Cabbage leaves wrapped around seasoned ground pork and rice, prepared with tomato sauce and served with a dinner roll. Eh.

4 Grilled Sota Sandwich (Brim): Cinnamon nut butter and Minnesota blueberry marmalade served warm on Irish soda bread. I’ve never been a PBJ girl.

Six foods made my “nope. Not having it” list:

Nordic Waffles Pebbles & Bam Bam waffle wrap (Nordic Waffles): warm Reese’s chocolate peanut butter cups and fruity cereal by Nordic Waffles. Looks like the floor after a slumber party. No thanks. Way too sweet.

Breakfast Potato Skin (The Blue Barn): Deep-fried potato skin stuffed with scrambled eggs and peppers, topped with blackened beef chislic – a South Dakota bar food staple – and drizzled with bearnaise sauce.The Blue Barn is one of my favorite places — and the first place we hit when we arrive. If this didn’t have scrambled eggs I’d be all in. I’ll probably just get a beer and their chicken and waffle cone (soooo good).

Joey Mary(Brim): An iced coffee slushie topped with a skewer of gluten-free baked goods, including a chocolate bite, honey toffee crunch and almond cookie.When I saw the name, I assumed it would be a bloody mary with an Australian twist — like kangaroo bacon. THAT I would’ve tried. But I hate iced coffee, and I hate overly sweet stuff.

Lamb T-Bone Chops (Holy Land): All-natural, 100% grass-fed grilled lamb loins seasoned with Mama Fatima’s Holy Land Marinade. I’m sure it’s yummy if you like lamb. But I don’t.

Mini Donut Latte (Anchor Coffee House):  A traditional latte with house-made mini donut flavoring, whole milk and espresso topped with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. Too sweet!

Shrimp & Grits Fritters (Funky Grits): Aged cheddar grits, gulf shrimp, onions and Creole seasoning, deep-fried and served with aioli dipping sauce. I don’t do shrimp.

We will also most certainly be making stops for something at Sausage Sisters, a piece or three of Big Fat Bacon, an order of deep fried pickles, and one (or two) servings of french fries. YUM!

I didn’t mean to write a third blog post in a row about fashion, but the death of an icon inspired me.

I am not a fashionista by any stretch (see my last post if you need confirmation), but I do love me some clothes. And with Gloria Vanderbilt’s death brought back a strong memory of mine.

My first pair of designer jeans were Gloria Vanderbilt. I vividly remember the day they were purchased: I was at Cartan’s with my mom (does Cartan’s even exist anymore? It was a store that carried things for kids and babies from birth until teen, from cribs to clothes.) I somehow convinced her that I should have the pricey jeans, and I was in awe of the GV triangle logo stamped on my butt.

GV jeans

I agonized on when to wear them. I was torn on wearing them right away or waiting. My “maturity” won out: I chose to wait until Friday. That way, my jeans would be a lasting memory for whoever thought of me over the weekend (is there anything more self-centered than a young teenage girl?).

In hindsight (sorry), no one was looking at my butt. But I treasured the thought that they might. I was realizing the power of fashion, not just to influence others, but, more importantly, to influence the way I felt about myself. As I have matured, I have learned to let that feeling guide my shopping: how do I feel in this outfit? I remember about 10 years ago taking girlfriends with me to buy a gala gown. I ended up getting the dress they liked on me rather than the one that made me feel glamorous and strong and sexy. I still think of that dress as a “one that got away.” When I see that other one in the closet I feel conflicted. I am sure I won’t wear it again.

Gloria Vanderbilt was, of course, way more than a name on a butt. A few years back I read a terrific book about her, written by her son, Anderson Cooper (for my review, go to https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26072609-the-rainbow-comes-and-goes). I had heard the phrase poor little rich girl but really didn’t understand it until I read this book.  I’d recommend it — it’s a glimpse behind the heavy oak doors of the uber-rich and how money certainly does not guarantee happiness.

But those jeans, and the way they made me feel? That was money well spent on something that made me feel happy — grown up, special, middle-school sexy (as sexy as a flat as a board 12-year-old can feel with braces and badly feathered hair). I like to think that Gloria Vanderbilt, who experienced such dramatic highs and lows over her lifetime, ended up on a high. She was having a renaissance, valued as a talented painter and quite fun to follow on Instagram. And, as a mom, probably quite happy to be known as “Anderson Mom.”

I’ll always remember her as the gal who got me started on the dark and twisted path to fashion.

My Fashion is Going to the Dogs

I lied: here’s another fashion post of sorts.

But this one is short and sweet — like me (stop choking on your cocktail, those who know me best).

As you may know, I am passionately involved in one of the biggest rescue organizations in the Midwest, Secondhand Hounds (https://secondhandhounds.org/). Besides fostering, working events and other activities, I am in charge of our Puppy Party division. A while back, Facebook shopper-stalked me and suggested I might like checking out a pair of shoes. I did. I liked them. I bought them.

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I wear them to every puppy party, and get so many compliments!

Then I saw these online: IMG_0995

Fun and practical! I love when it is wet enough to pull them off with style (which was a lot this spring!).

Then a friend shared a link with me for more dog shoes. That led to another link. And another…

Now I have 5 pairs of “dog shoes.”

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I have a problem.

Last year I surprised myself by getting my ears double pierced. Consequently, I have been shopping for itty bitty earrings. Naturally, that led to these:

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I refuse to catalog all the t-shirts, hoodies, tank tops, sweat pants and sweatshirts I have that are somehow dog-related.

I know I am not the only one with a theme-skewed wardrobe. What’s lurking in your closet?

My kind of Camping

It’s been a few weeks since the annual Met Ball, and I am just about ready to digest the looks. This post will be picture heavy — because, frankly, even my scintillating prose can’t do these looks justice. It’s hard for me to be critical when the whole point is to be outlandish and stand out in a wild, wild way. so I’ll present the evening in categories, and you can make of it what you will (I will, of course, HAVE to make some commentary along the way. Because girl: these looks require reaction like Anna Wintour requires bangs and botox.

Every year the Met Ball, a huge fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, has a theme, and stars and designers and the generally too wealthy have fun with it. It’s like my annual Halloween Spooktacular, but with a waaay bigger budget. This year’s theme was camp. What is camp, exactly? According to Wikipedia, “Camp is an aesthetic style and sensibility that regards something as appealing because of its bad taste and ironic value.” So basically, it’s tacky made cool.

Here are some of the outfits that I personally felt embodied “camp” the best:

 

A particular fave probably surprises you, because it seems so bland. But Lena Waithe and Kerby Jean-Raymond are so cool. The pinstripes on their suits were the lyrics from Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” And you had to love the shout out on the back to all the drag queens who basically invented camp and live it every day!

In some instances, it was the accessories that made the outfit:

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Some themes were simple.

“Bad Prom”

“I forgot my pants”

“I remembered my pants”

 

Disney Princesses and Villains:

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Instead of a theme, per se, some folks chose to focus on color.

Pretty (sometimes) in Pink:

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It ain’t easy being green:

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Ladies in Red:

 

Brighter than the sun yellow:

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Why wear just one color? Taste the rainbow!

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Another three genres sort of overlapped.  First, you had the metallic gals, those who sometimes looked disco-ball glamorous, and sometimes reminded me of what my husband wraps up in after completing a marathon.

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Then there were the warrior princesses, making bad-ass fashion either kick butt or smell like it:

And finally, in the Star Trek guest star category:

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Some outfits were just plain pretty:

And some were just simply costumes:

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Now we musn’t forget the couples, some of who doubled down on the fabulosity:

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And as I have mentioned in other “fashion” posts, men have stepped up their game! Some focused the attention above the belt:

 

While others were power bottoms:

And some were just well suited, whether they be subdued…

 

…or shiny:

 

Some went big pimpin:

Some wanted to make a statement:

And some were flam-blam-glam!

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Then there are the gender benders, who reveled in the opportunity to be stylishly fluid:

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But let’s be honest: one guest OWNED the event. Dear readers, I give you Lady Gaga:

After the event, the party continued. Here are some of my fave after-party looks:

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In case you were wondering, Gucci made the most of the Met Gala outfits at 25, with Ferragamo and Luis Vuitton tied for 2nd at 14. Rounding ot the top five were Thom Brown (12) and Versace (11).

Bradon Maxwell “only” did four. But they were all for Lady Gaga, so he wins.

And so did we!

I think this is the end of fashion posts for a while, simply because the stars are off until the awards seasons kick off again.

Whatever will I find to talk about???

Soaking up the Island Life

On our last full day, I left the schedule wide open. We slept in ( as much as we could. I seem to be waking up around 630am anymore, no matter where I am or how late I stayed up the night before), ate a leisurely breakfast, and hung at the beach and pool.

We also got to hang with our favorite new critter friends: lots of lizards and Freddy, the neighbor dog we thought was a stray, but wasn’t.

 

Captured a few moments of Drummer Boy and Singer Girl:

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HWSNBN took it upon himself to go snorkeling — way too far out for my liking. The bay we were on was sandy smooth and clear, which was great for wading and splashing, but not good for marine life sightings. So he swam out — and disappeared. After 45 minutes of having no idea where he was, I asked folks at the neighboring villa if they had seen him when they were out swimming and canoeing. Nope. So one of teh guys took a boat back out and found him; I could see them talking from teh beach, and can only imagine the conversation:

“Hey there!”

“Um, hi..”

“Dude, your wife is stressing.”

“Why?”

“She can’t see you. I think you better get back. You might be in trouble, man.”

“Crap, ok…”

So he came back. I gave him the stink eye, explained calmly that if the kids or I had done that he would have lost his ever-loving mind. He agreed, kind of sheepishly. I gave him another look, then left to get ready for dinner.

Men.

That night we went out to an amazing restaurant — Scotchies in Falmouth (http://scotchies.restaurantsnapshot.com/). As we all wondered what to have, the waitress just took away the menus and said. “I’ll take care of you, mon.” And she did. Jerk chicken and pork, sausage, ribs, steak, and sides. Our fave new food in Jamaica had to be festival, a kind of semi-sweet dense doughy breadstick. Incredible! And the margaritas at Scotchies were amazing as well! We sat outside and it was very pretty — thanks to Andrew for suggesting it!

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After dinner, it was time for our last adventure: swimming at Glistening Waters, one of only 4 bioluminescent bays in the world (http://www.glisteningwaters.com/luminous-lagoon-tour/). Once again, Andrew hooked us up: we were the last ones there for the night, so went out in a boat solo and got to swim. The waters glow when they are disturbed, so we treaded (trod?) water with wild abandon to make the magic happen!

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The bay was bath water warm, and if you ever go heed the call for water shoes because that is some squishy stuff on the bottom (don’t ask, don’t tell). But what a fun last adventure!

well, not quite the last one!

When we got back to the house, we resumed a marathon activity that Sailor Boy had been planning for us: a game of Dungeons and Dragons. For weeks leading up to the trip, he helped the D and D virgins (me, HWSNBN and Singer Girl) create characters, and gave us YouTube videos to watch. It didn’t help. I spent my teen years avoiding this game, sure that it would ruin my social standing if I played the “game of nerds.” Well, having happily raised a proud nerd, it was inevitable that I would have to come to the dark side eventually. We played the game over a span of three days and nights — and ultimately had to speed through the end or we would still be there at the table, me baffled at what I was supposed to do. My son was in his element, and we were all bonding with wild abandon.

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It was awful.

It was awesome.

I’d do it all again tomorrow!

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

On day three we donned water shoes and hiked through the Jamaican jungle to climb up — and jump off of — waterfalls.

I had originally planned to visit the famous Dunn’s River Falls, but Andrew reassured me that the Blue Hole area was actually more enjoyable, according to the other folks he had driven around. Again, Andrew did not steer us wrong!

There were little falls and big ones. Tiny shallow pools and great big deep ones. Lots of blue water and green foliage. It was beautiful, and it was so fun! We actually got some great pictures, too! I don’t usually buy the CDs that the professional photographers hawk, but these were worth it!

 

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After all our time in teh ocean, the fresh water was incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating. As tourist attractions go, it was about as far from American as you could get: pot brownies sold at stands as you climbed, Rastafarians selling Red Stripe beer out of coolers, and very few safety rules.

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always be wary of what’s happening behind you…

The last jump was the biggie: about a 40 foot drop!

After that (and after we had to reinsert Drummer Boy’s arm shoulder back into its socket), we did a short zip line into a pond!

All in all, a stellar experience!

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That evening, back at the villa, Chappie, the house caretaker, made a bonfire on the beach!

HWSNBN couldn’t resist helping: IMG_0882

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A great ending to a great day!

Yee-haw!

I have never made a formal bucket list (note to self: good blog topic), but I already know some of the things on it, and am working my way through it. Last year, I danced on teh Champs Elysees for my birthday. This summer I will go skydiving. And last week, I rode a horse on a beach!

When I broached the subject with the Jamaica-bound crew only Singer Girl was an immediate and emphatic yes vote. The others came and to the idea (except for one. He chose to sleep in and hang out poolside at the villa. Not a bad choice!).

The rest of us hopped in the car with driver Andrew and headed to Braco Stables (http://bracostables.com.jm/). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After donning the requisite headgear, we saddled up!

Soon we wandering fields and beaches, passing abandoned drug airstrips and banana trees, enjoying the flowers and the wildlife. Occasionally our horses had minds of their own — especially mine, who wanted to keep nibbling the tall grass as we passed. We all secretly hoped we’d get a chance to pick up speed, but the guides really frowned on that. Every now and then I’d hear Drummer Boy call out “Yah!” to his horse. I think he may have had the most fun of all of us!

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Then it was time to get in the water (after a beer break, of course!)

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Then we hopped back on the horses and rode back.

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What a glorious day! So many laughs, and such huge smiles on everyone’s faces! And the scenery! Whatever could we do the next day to top it?

Under the Sea

As we were planning the trip, I gave the crew a list of adventure options. Some were universal yeses, some were met with a “no thanks” and some were in the middle. We started the trip strong, with a unanimous choice: scuba diving.

HWSNBN and I have been certified for decades (took our classes in a YMCA swimming pool in Fargo in the dead of winter), and Sailor Boy and Singer Girl have gone twice before, in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. But since they aren’t certified, they were required to do a “how to” crash course along with scuba virgins Drummer Boy and Mojo Jojo. Andrew brought us to Garfield Diving in Ocho Rios (http://garfielddiving.com/) and we all suited up. HWSNBN and I went out for a dive while they took classes, meeting up with three other divers from Germany.

Every time we dive, I know I am going to get a wee bit panicky at first. The human body is not supposed to breathe underwater, and, as an overthinker, I always have to work through that first time. But once I start to swim a bit, I get distracted by the beauty and wonder of the underwater world.

When the kids were done and ready, our boat met up with theirs. We dove in and waited at the bottom for the rest of the group. A couple came right down, but two took a while, as one was experiencing the same panic I get. The dive master from Garfield was patient and understanding and helped him through his nerves, and soon we were all swimming with the fishes!

 

As always, I am humbled when I am under water. The vastness, the sense of peace and beauty and wonder — all combine to make me slow down, relax, and enjoy the moment. I did see a lot of dying coral, which was heart-wrenching.  It is hard to see the environment failing because we have failed it. Before we went down, our dive master told us to be on teh lookout for lionfish, an invasive species dangerous to fish and humans.  They prey on baby fish and are contributing to the destruction of the reef. During our dives, we found (and he killed — that was hard to watch but necessary) four of them.

Once killed, he trimmed them of their dangerous spikes and fed them to sea anemones, so the circle of life was fulfilled!

Here is a slide show of some of the amazing sea life we experienced:

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As always, we came away knowing we HAD to do this again — and my kids are determined to be certified! After diving, it was time for some grubbing, so Andrew drove us to Olympic runner and Jamaican legend Usain Bolt’s restaurant (https://tracksandrecords.com/)  where we replenished our stores, then headed back to the villa, reminiscing about today, and looking forward to the next adventure!

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My familia

Jamaica, Mon

The last time our family took a vacation — all four of us — was in 2015, when Sailor Boy was a senior in high school. We spent spring break in Puerto Rico that time, knowing that in a few obtsh he would belong to the US Navy and we didn’t know when we’d get him again. Here are a few pics from taht trip:

 

 

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Flash forward 4 years and here we are. Last week the four of us, plus Singer Girl’s BF Drummer Boy, and Sailor Boy’s bestie, Mojo Jojo, went to Jamaica. We all needed this trip, for various reasons. As a family, we needed to reconnect. HWSNBN had just lost his wonderful father the week before. I had spent much of the last 4 months recovering from my ice fall and helping my mom through an epic battle with the kidney stone to end all kidney stones (3 inches long it was, and after 6 procedures we think it’s gone). The four young ‘uns were knee deep in school, either starting a new semester or heading into finals. And 7 of us had just survived a Minnesota winter for teh ages. So we were DUE.

I booked a house in a community called Bengal Beach, in Trelawny Parish, Jamaica.  We were about an hour east of Montego Bay, and 40 minutes west of Ocho Rios. I thought about staying in a big hotel in a big city — but I didn’t want to lose my kids to swim up bars and nightclubs. Plus, I know from traveling experience that communal space is key to good family time. So the house was perfect –especially since it had a staff of 3 to keep the party humming (ie: I didn’t have to cook or clean. Halle-freaking-lujiah.). I also booked a driver named Andrew at the suggestion of the VRBO owner. We all agreed he MADE the trip! He was making great suggestions for us from teh minute we got in the van on the way to the villa!

Here are a few pics from the house!

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If you’d like to learn more about the Seahorse Villa, go to https://www.vrbo.com/824324?arrival=2019-08-26&departure=2019-08-30&adultsCount=6.

As you’ll see in the upcoming blog posts (and probably have discerned from previous ones), I don’t find sitting still day in and day out very fun. I realized this time that while some folks like coming back from vacation refreshed. Personally, I want to feel invigorated. Don’t get me wrong: sitting in teh sun with a good book is way up there for me on the happy scale (and my book on this vacation was The Velveteen Daughter, by Laurel Davis Huber. So good!). But I can sit on the couch anywhere. When I travel, I want to do it all! In this trip, we did a lot, as you will see!

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