Author Archives: DonniT

Would it Help if I Worried?

So there’s this bug going around…

No, I don’t have it — yet.

Am I the only one out there not freaked out, but still get that it is a real thing? I mean, I know I will likely get it, or at least be exposed to it if I haven’t been already. I also assume that, sadly, I will know someone who dies. That’s an awful thought, but the odds are likely.

In the meantime, I am not sitting around wringing my hands and obsessively watching press conferences or reading charts or graphs or statistics.

My life has changed, sure. Date nights are gone. So is any personal space. My activities at home have to be curtailed to accommodate our home being turned into an office and school space.

The first time it started feeling real for our family was on our trip to Seattle Feb 27-March 2nd. That was about the time it started breaking open in Washington. As we wandered through museums and tourist attractions, rode planes and Ubers and ferries and monorails, ate samples at food markets and didn’t wash our hands enough, the bug was out there, closing in.

On Wednesday the 10th, HWSNBN was sent home from work to self-quarantine. He hasn’t been back to work since. That was the first way the pandemic has affected the family. We are lucky that he is still working — but keeping puppies quiet during his conference calls has been challenging.

At my weekly marketing meeting for Secondhand Hounds, the animal rescue I work for, we discussed possibly changing our upcoming events. I reached out the next day, Thursday, to my upcoming puppy parties (that’s what I do: I run our puppy party division), assured them that animals can’t spread the virus, but if they wanted to reschedule, that’s fine. No one took me up on the offer.

The next day we sent another letter, informing that all events were canceled, whether we liked it or not.

About that time my daughter and son were starting to feel the ripple effects where they are.

Singer Girl goes to school in Michigan (Go Blue!). She loves it there. I told her to prepare for things to change. I told her that her A Cappella group’s trip to Boston would likely be canceled. She said no way (it was canceled). I told her folks would soon be leaving. She said no way. The local kids started heading home temporarily. The school canceled classes for two days to decide how to handle the situation. They went to online classes. She wanted to see what would happen with all the social stuff. When St Patrick’s Day and Aca prom and here sorority’s charity event were all canceled, she was stunned.

I told her she would be coming home soon. She said no. She was still working; in fact, she was working more than she ever had, to cover the shifts of all those who had left already.  She also worried about exposing us to anything she had come in contact with.

I told her she would be coming home. She said she didn’t want to leave her friends. I said just start emotionally planning for it. She rolled her eyes, and we hung up.

Two hours later she called and said, “Ok: come get me.”

So last Thursday I drove 10 hours to Michigan. We packed her up the next day and drove back on Saturday.

Now, we all have to juggle wifi and quiet time so she can do her studies, HWSNBN can do his work, and I can stay sane while they step all over my routine.

Sailor Boy is supposed to change duty stations this summer — to Italy. Not sure if that’s going to happen now. The military is taking some major steps to deal with the virus, and his day to day life has drastically changed. He calls every day, and we discuss the latest development. Will he go to Italy? Will he stay with his current ship? Will he deploy? Will the navy help him move? Will I have to go to Washington and help?

Weirdly it’s like wartime. It’s what he signed up for, I tell him. In a lot of ways, this whole gig reminds me of what I imagined WW2 was like. Folks are sacrificing and stockpiling. We are being told to use supplies wisely. Many common items are hard to come by. People are churning out homemade masks and hospital gowns to protect health care workers. Neighbors are checking in on one another. Again, we all are waiting for that shoe to drop: who will we know that will pay the ultimate price?

Rescue is all weird now too. We have been told to stop doing spay and neuter surgeries. We’ve already cut our office staff to a skeleton crew. On the plus side, more people than ever before want to foster.  Sadly, we are unable to take in as many animals as we usually do, as we have cut down on transports to minimize potential volunteer exposure. So we have fosters just waiting to help, and we can’t get needy animals to their waiting homes.

On a day to day level, my life isn’t radically different. I am not worried. My philosophy for most of my life has been to plan for the worst, hope for the best.

In 2015, I saw a movie that pretty much changed my life: Bridge of Spies. Tom Hanks stars as an attorney on cold war America, called upon to defend an accused Russian spy. He funds the situation distasteful, to say the least, but does his civic duty Upon meeting the spy in jail, Hanks’s character explains the gravity of the situation, while the accused spy calmly listens. hanks, exasperated, asks why he is so calm. Isn’t he worried?”

“Would it help?” the Russian replies.

Would it help? Does worrying help? No, of course not. It just stresses you out. So from that moment on, whenever I get that nagging feeling, I pause and take a breath. Rather than waste energy worrying, I take action. Do what I can to take control of the situation, then let it go.

That’s where I am now: I have done what I can to prepare. Now I breathe. And wait.

Stay safe.

Holding On to the Date Nights

So what did we do on date nights in February?

We did things on our own, as well as with groups. I do enjoy having “date nights” with other couples, as we find we are inspiring others to branch out and do new things. Any time we can encourage others to step outside of their box, it doubles the fun!

The first weekend we went to Vegas, so no one-on-one date nights, but lots of fun with two of our fave couples! We do Vegas every year with these guys and always have a blast.

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Highlights included seeing Santana at the House of Blues — I love a concert, and especially when I have room to dance!

We visited  Lisa Van derPump’s new place at Caesar’s for lunch beforehand, As expected: drinks were delish, ambiance was OTT, and the food yummy (of course we had the goat cheese balls!).

We happened to be in town for Super Bowl (never again), and we rented a cabana where our group got to enjoy drinks, food, and sun while watching the wrong team win.

img_1309That night was a great dinner at a new-for-us restaurant, Catch at Aria.

 

The next weekend was my turn to plan, and HWSNBN was left in the dark as long as possible That was a long time indeed, as we had to pack a suitcase and drive more than 2 hours into the frozen tundra. He could not figure out where we were going, which was really fun for me.

Can I just give you a suggestion?

If you ever get a chance to attend a concert by the guy who wrote the soundtrack to your early love life as a couple, do it!

Richard Marx was playing at a casino and we hoofed it up north to see. he was so fantastic! I knew he had a huge catalog of songs and had written and collaborated with many, many famous performers. Hearing him tell the stories and sing the songs was so cool! He is a very funny guy. After the show, we hit the casino floor. ‘Twas a mite bit different than the Vegas casinos of the previous weekend, but it was fun feeling like a high roller, lol! Chicken strips and fries for dinner were also a far cry from the Haute cuisine of seven days prior, but that’s ok. This was our date, and it even reminded me of when we would run away for a night in college to Lake Tahoe, stay up all night then drive back.

 

This was one of those dates that never would’ve happened if we had planned it together. HWSNBN hates car trips — 30 minutes to St Paul makes him lose his mind. And he would’ve rolled his eyes at the idea of this concert. But he was wowed, and we really had a blast.

We had another sort of date that weekend. I mean, not really, but it was such a fun thing to do I wanted to share it. That Sunday, there was a huge dog-sled race called the Klondike Dog Derby on frozen Lake Minnetonka. we didn’t make all the pre-game festivities, of the days before, but we grabbed our dog, piled on the clothing layers, and trudged through the snow out onto the lake. I am excited to see that they will be doing this race again next year, because it was a very fun experience. I hope it is as sunny and gorgeous as it was this year. I would love to make it a “block party” event!

The following weekend was a double-date night with our friends’ Beth and Cory. Beth had reached out to me a couple of months prior, having found a Groupon she wanted to try. The outing had been on my date-night list already, so I agreed, and we surprised the guys with an evening of glass blowing at Foci! We each made colorful paperweights, and the whole process was super interesting. I’d love to try it again!

Afterward, we went out to dinner, and I have to say it was an epic fail. I was in charge of the dinner reservations, and I picked a place I would NEVER go to again. That stinks. Beth and Cory were polite, but it was embarrassing on my end.

The next week we had a double date and a single date planned. I have learned that when you miss someone and want to hang out, you should do so. So often we run into people places and say “we should get together!” Then, you never do? So now I try to reach out the next day and schedule something. Like, hey, what are you guys free on these dates?” I never regret it — there is a reason you say that whole “let’s get together sometime” thing. You like those people!

So earlier in the week, I had reached out a couple we enjoy, Matt and Kristy, whom we hadn’t hung out with in a while. We were miraculously both free, so Friday night we met for dinner and an activity. First up was a fantastic meal at Borough (we had tried to go to Parlour, but it was a madhouse. Another time!). Dinner was great and inventive, and the cocktails were the same.

We hung out a really long time chatting, then hopped into the car and went to the next locale: Modist brewery. they were having an indoor golf event, which sounded like something new and fun to try. But I read it wrong: it wasn’t the whole putting green deal. It was frisbee golf from TC Putts and Pints!

We had a ball — even if we did suck. I mean, I definitely sucked more than the others. But none of us was gonna be in the Masters.

Our last date night of February was planned by HWSNBN. It was on the calendar as “awesome date night,” and he was very excited to share it with me. This was a Tuesday night, date, showing that fun can be had on even the most basic of days!

Off we went to Badger Hill Brewing Company in Shakopee, where we participated in a Paint Your Pet Night by Gray Duck Art. HWSNBN had sent pics of our dog Stevie Nicks and our foster pup, Weeble, and we had a fancy paint by numbers kit waiting for us! Throw in a great beer and a Heggie’s frozen pizza and we had a ball!

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The March date report will be abbreviated, I fear — and April’s will likely be so as well. Social distancing is tough on our adventures, but we get it. It just gives me time to map out new things in a healthier future!

Turning the Pages

I have a book addiction.

I read ALL THE TIME. My nightstand usually has a couple books waiting patiently for me. I journal about the books I read (I am on the second volume of said journal). It contains all the books I have read for about a decade, plus it is crammed with lists and slips of paper and articles of books waiting to be devoured.

Why journal about this, besides my compulsion to make lists? I have this weird self-important idea that someday a kid or grandkid of mine will want to see what I read and pick a few books out themselves., just to be closer to me. But honestly, the journaling is also about keeping track; I read so much that sometimes I forget I read something until several pages in. Time waste!

Besides the journal, the website Goodreads has made me even more obsessed with chronicling my reading habits. Now I write my reviews there, then print them out and paste in my journal.

Mind you, I don’t buy most of the books I read. I am a frequent flyer at the library (when I do need a book that I can’t get from the library, I visit my local independent bookseller, Excelsior Bay Books. They are awesome).

Recently I started looking for books about an upcoming trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Got on the library website, and looked for everything I could find about the area — essays, travel books, fiction, etc.

At the same time, Amazon started sending me book suggestions “based on my history/interest.” I frankly don’t remember ordering any books from them. So somehow the internet Gremlins cyber stalked me and realized I am a sucker for historical fiction, especially about British royalty.

Amazon’s suggestions sent me down a rabbit hole back on the library website, and I added a bunch of books to my reserve list from that realm.

I am not sure how many books I reserved, but I do know that at some point they told me I had to stop, having exceeded the number allowed to reserve.

And then I got the call: I had books waiting.

A lot of books.

My first trip home netted about 25 books.

A few days later: a dozen more.

I was in trouble. I quickly organized them in order of size, knowing that I would never get through all of thee in 3 weeks, but that I needed to get through as many as possible in that time. The library has a fantastic new auto-renewal system, but I needed to get these books going on my own.

So far this year I have returned 37 books (love that the library now tracks this!).

This is my current pile:

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Books, of course, allow you access to amazing stories. True ones, fictional ones, and everything in between.

In the piles of books I recently brought home, there were some quite old ones — published in the 1920s, 30s, etc.

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Frankly, I didn’t get through them, but just holding them made me feel something. When you open them up, they still have the cool old handwritten check-out slips in them, and I couldn’t help but wonder: who read these books back then? Why? Were these hot new publications back in the day, or did they just hear about them from friends? Did they stumble across them, fall in love, or hate them and not finish them.

These books made me feel a little better about my weird book journal because I am leaving a document of what I read, when, why and what I thought about it. Maybe no one cares, and that’s ok. But maybe someone will. Or maybe, 80 years from now, someone else will check out a book I read, and it will have the patina of age, with butter-soft pages worn silky from years of love. And the reader will go — man, this book is old!

I wonder who read it?

I did.

Follow me on Goodreads!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Loving Myself Today

I went to bed last night with a bad taste in my mouth, and it’s all my own fault.

I realized that I have been kind of a bitch lately, and have not been holding myself to a very high standard. I have been talking about someone behind their back (no it’s probably not you), and that’s not okay.

I have always thought of myself as a very open-minded person, but maybe I have been wrong. In the fall I took an intellectual Humility test, and I retook it a couple of weeks ago.  I was appalled by my results.2020-02-142020-02-14 (1)

Not only was I worse than others on average, but I was headed in the wrong direction.

Clearly, I need to reassess how I think and behave. How many times have I hurt people and not even realized it? How many times have I judged someone unknowingly? What have I closed my mind to inadvertently?

What have I missed out on? I mean, who wants to talk with me when I talk with them negatively about other people?

So yesterday I reached out to the person I felt I had wronged. I apologized, and she laughed it off with grace. Said she’s not unused to being talked at behind her back, and snarked at to her face.

And that brought up a whole new problem.

As women, should we be okay with this? Do women in positions of authority laugh it off, and say they are used to being treated so meanly? That it’s ok? That they have gotten over the hurt?

Do men tear each other down like women do (and when did I become one of those women I loathed so much?). Do men accept the rudeness and the hurt? Or do they not even notice.

Do women take everything personally?

Is that good?

Do we care more? Do we work harder because of that? Are women motivated by the desire to rise above it, or to get approval? Or do we just swallow the hurt (to what emotional, mental and physical effect?) and become more focussed on accomplishing our goals?

Why do I do the things I do?

I will be the first to admit I am a personality and emotional contradiction. On one hand, I don’t give a shit what people think about me — but I am simultaneously desperate to be everyone’s friend.

On the one hand, I am proud of my directness. I hate the idea of pussy-footing around something. If someone asks my opinion, I tell them. (and clearly, as I discussed above, I’m not always great at my delivery). I dye my hair bright colors. I like to have loud ringtones with rock music. I wear shoes that light up and post pictures of my crazy manicures. I am an over-sharer — social media was MADE for me.

And yet I am always wondering: do they like me? Why don’t they ask me to hang out? Are they having fun without me? One of my biggest social hurdles has always been that I assume I am not included unless I am explicitly asked to participate. I have had folks be absolutely baffled that I am hurt that something occurred and I didn’t get to participate. “You know you were invited!” they say. No, I don’t. Unless I am specifically asked, I don’t know. And I get jealous when I see people I know doing things without me. Mind you: we are insanely busy most of the time, so it’s not like we are hurting for things to do. But I have an insatiable, almost debilitating desire to be included.

Well. This blog took a turn into self-analysis.

But maybe that’s where it started as well.

So: back to the beginning: I need to be a better person. I need to shut my mouth when my when I don’t have something positive to contribute. If I have a problem, snarking about it to someone else will not solve it. Go to the source and see if there is a solution. Don’t let other people get to me.

Scroll past that post.

If I don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.

And listen more than I speak. Man, THAT one is hard. I am not sure exactly how I am going to correct half a century’s worth of experience that has led me to this point. But I do know that I don’t like feeling guilty, and I like it even less knowing that I may have hurt someone.

They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one.

Step one taken.

 

 

Lookin’ Good (most of ya, anyway)

 

Starting with the nominated actors, let’s put them in order of least favorite to favorite dressed in each category!

Best Actor:

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Best Actress

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Best Supporting Actor

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Best Supporting Actress

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I was amazed at all the black and white this year!

Speaking of black and white, a few of the men tried to break out of your standard penguin suit:

 

As for the dynamic duos…

 

As you probably know by now, I am a huge fan of color and not a fan of the lack of it…usually. There wasn’t much color last night, except for a strong showing of reds and oranges. Here are a few of the colorful standouts, with a few paler hues that stood out for me.

 

Before we do my favorites and least faves, perhaps my favorite category: the, “I can’t make up my minds” — or the ALMOST Faves

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And now, for my least favorite looks…

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The best looks of the night, IMO:

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Some faces I missed seeing on the red carpet, and would like to see next year: Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman and Emma Stone! See ya then!

And That’s a Wrap

I LOVE THAT PARASITE WON BEST PICTURE!

That was such a highlight for me at last night’s Academy Awards. I feel like the movie’s dominance last night was the only surprise all night. And Boon Jung Ho deserved his oft-mentioned drink last night, lol! I have a feeling he and the cast had a lot of fun at the after-parties!

What else did I like from the event?

I loved Chrissy Metz (from This is Us TV fame) singing “I’m Standing with You.”

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She was amazing.

I laughed out loud at Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig and their bit. Why aren’t they hosting the Oscars? The show keeps wanting to be pro-women, but would rather go hostless — a huge mistake — than hire smart, talented women like these?

Utkarsh Ambukar’s rap about midway through was on fire! I mean, he probably planned some of it but had to have composed it pretty much as the show rolled. He was great, and slightly but not obsessively political, and I bet a lot of people are googling him today.

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I was wrong on my Billie Eilish prediction — but loved the way they used her talent. Great call having one of the hippest young music stars today sing during the In Memorium tribute. It was a way of drawing in the young viewers, showing her paying homage to those who came before her. The Awards has been struggling with declining viewership over the years, and I think they are trying to make the show more relevant to a younger audience. They are bringing in more music, which resonates. But Eminem? Why? What did his performance have to do with today’s movies? Don’t get me wrong: I love him, but he is 47 — he could be Eilish’s grandfather.

They also brought in some younger stars to do some face time. They were often relegated to introducing bigger stars, who were, in turn, introducing bits.  That’s kind of a weird thing, IMO. And I don’t think the names were big enough to really draw young viewers if that’s what they were trying to do.

Another fave moment was watching Rebel Wilson and James Cordon making fun of themselves and their turn in probably the biggest catastrophic flop of the year, CATS. Their 4 minutes or so on screen were probably better than the whole movie.

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I also wasn’t too keen on Elton John’s performance, but I really think it was because the sound quality wasn’t great. He’s awesome (and I can’t wait to see him live this summer!).

On the other hand, there were quite a few things I didn’t love. As I said before, I hate the no-host thing. After Janelle Monae’s very cool intro performance, they humiliated two former hosts, Steve Martin and Chris Rock, by making them poke fun at being non-hosts. The jokes fell pretty flat to me — I mean, poking fun at Jeff Bezos was amusing at first, but they took it too far (why was he there, anyway?). And frankly, I felt that Martin was there to be a foil for Rock — cue the white male privilege jokes.

HWSNBN and I had a huge issue with the Idina Menzel Frozen 2 song performance. Not with her — she’s a phenomenal singer, of course. But they had singers who had performed the Frozen songs in other languages on stage with her. Great idea, but where was the diversity there? No one from China? Or Africa? And basically, two singing in the same language (Spanish and Castilian are awfully close). We both were pretty irritated by that. If the Academy is striving to promote diversity, that would’ve been an easy way to show some.

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And you know a joke is tired when HWSNBN comments that he has seen it before. The Will Farrel Julia Louis-Dreyfus bit where they don’t know what a cinematographer does has been recycled enough. It’s rude and disrespectful to cinematographers.

And why were some things introduced twice (Anthony Ramos introduced Lin-Manuel Miranda, who then introduced a montage about the importance of music in movies.

And why were some performers not introduced at all? Chrissy Metz, Elton John, and Randy Newman all just sort of started performing. Very weird.

Some performers, like Randy Newman and Elton John, weren’t introduced at all.

And sometimes even presenters got presented: Lin-Manuel Miranda, for instance, got a full WWE-style introduction from Anthony Ramos, in order to to…introduce a montage.

All in all, I liked the show. I know that every year they have to work around the movies that are nominated to create the show. That makes sense. And I know that there were lots of things that didn’t happen this year (no women directors nominated, for example, And yes, having women in starring roles, like the first female conductor (even though she was only conducting for a segment and not the whole show), was a good call. But it does still feel like a desperate move in a scared town. There were some amazing movies this year, and I think that’s great. I guess the problem might be that as we raise the bar on movies, there will be more wonderful ones to pick from, so more will not be recognized. I mean, Meryl Streep wasn’t nominated for anything this year.

Clearly, it’s tough to be a woman in Hollywood!

(tomorrow I’ll post about the fashions. Don’t worry: I’m still as trite and superficial as ever!)

Predictions are a Production

The Academy Awards are tonight!

I managed to see all the best picture nominees and most of the acting ones. Here are my predictions for some of the awards — decorated by fashion splashes not yet discussed during this awards season!

Best Supporting Actor

(Haven’t seen Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, or Anthony Hopkins in The Two Popes).

Who I liked best: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  I’ll be honest: this year has changed my opinion of Pitt. I never really paid attention to him before, although he stood out from the generically handsome slew of men in Hollywood in Inglourious Basterds. But this role seems, well, like who he is in real life. And after watching him in this, and in all the interviews and red carpet and award show appearances, he’s kinda hot. He’s sexy to me now, both as a hunka man and as an actor. Hoping for cool stuff from him in the future!

Who will win: Pitt. Easiest vote of the night. And he should have a cool, aw-shucks, ma’am, speech.

Fashions I liked from the BAFTA awards:

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Best Supporting Actress

(haven’t seen Kathy Bates in Ricard Jewell)

Who I liked best: Florence Pugh, Little Women. I have heard some folks say she shouldn’t win because she was so much older than her character in the book, and she was a British woman playing a thoroughly American role. I don’t really care about either of those things — and those were choices made by the casting director, not by her. From the minute we entered the theater, I realized this was a different, thoroughly modern Little Women, and she was perfect. She fleshed out Amy March in a way I’d never seen done before and made her a strong, complex woman, not just a spoiled brat.

Who will win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story. She was good, don’t get me wrong, but Best? Nah.

Fashions I didn’t like from the BAFTAs:

Best Actor:

(Haven’t seen Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory or Jonathon Pryce in The Two Popes)

Who I liked best: Joaquin Phoenix in The Joker. He completely embodied the character and made him sympathetic. His performance gave dimension to an almost comical villain, and the film is more of a treatise on the plight of the poor and those with mental illness, and how the haves don’t always get what the have nots need or want. Phoenix was sad, and sweet, and gruesome and powerful and beyond impressive.

Who will win: Phoenix. A given.

Fashions I liked at the SAG awards:

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Best Actress:

Who I liked best: So many great performances here! But I have to say Renee Zelwegger as Judy Garland was heart wrenching and lovely. My number two choice would be Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story. So nuanced! She was so good you could almost forget how stupid beautiful she is.

Who will win: Zellwegger

Fashions I didn’t like from the SAGs:

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Best Director: 

Who I liked best: All 5 deftly handled complex films with lots of different challenges. I wouldn’t be bothered by any of them winning, but I might have to say Bong Joon Ho for Parasite was the most impressive to me, followed by Sam Mendes for 1917.

Who will win: Most likely Mendes — although Hollywood does love itself enough to give it to Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Best Picture:

Which I liked best: I kind of feel like Parasite should win, with 1917 in second place.

Which will win: 1917 — or Once Upon a Time.

My biggest surprise prediction: Billie Eilish will debut her new James Bond song! And I can’t wait!

Time to go get cozy, and watch the show! See you soon!

 

Take your Fish on a Date

Whenever HWSNBN attend social events — company parties, dinner clubs, drinks with friends — people always have the same fascination. The same desire to know, to pick our brains.

“So…tell us about those date nights!”

We chuckle and look at each other. He sips his drink, and I start talking.

The three questions we get asked most:

  1. How does it work?
  2. How often do you do it?
  3. Where do you get the ideas?

So how do the date nights work?

Our date nights stemmed from a  conversation HWSNBN and I had in late August 2018. Singer Girl had just left for college, and the nest was empty. My husband of just weeks shy of 25 years looked at me and said: we are in a rut. He said he didn’t want us spending the rest of our days just going out to dinner and binge-watching Netflix shows. I agreed,. But I said I didn’t want this to be a one-sided thing, where I have to plan everything and then feel (whether rightly or wrongly) like the pressure is on me for us to have fun.

So we came up with a plan: we would take turns planning date nights. If it was my turn, I’d have it all planned out, with no input on the planning front from him — which meant he couldn’t veto what we were doing. The same goes for when it is his turn. That veto thing is the most important part of making these date nights work. How many of us come up with an idea for something to do on a Saturday night, but when we ask our significant other, they say “I don’t know, Nah. I’m not feeling it”?

If the other person doesn’t know what you are doing, they can’t kill the idea.

This also means that we get to do things we want to do — even if we know it wouldn’t be the other person’s first choice.

Our first planned date night was my choice, and we went mini-golfing at the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis. that night, we also tried our first selfie. We are really bad at those and have pledged (well, one of us did) to do them every date night. We try to send them tt he kids, partly to let them know we still exist, partly to let them know we are doing ok (and partly to brag. Singer Girl has wistfully proclaimed she can’t wait to be 21 so she can hang out with us, as we seem to know where all the cool places are!).

How in the world do you find things to do?

We have done a lot:

Trapeze classes.

Plays.

Museums and galleries and art festivals

Countless amazing restaurants, bars, and breweries.

Scavenger hunts.

Pottery classes.

Inflatables courses. Pumpkin carving extravaganzas.

Lantern festivals.

And so much more!

It is super easy to find things to do. I have always been a list maker and a collector of information, so I have folders of ideas. I have a paper one, filled with articles I have cut out of papers and magazines. I also have a computer folder with things I have seen online. The internet is amazeballs for this sort of thing: once you start clicking on things, you get suggestions thrown at you left and right. I mean, all you have to do is think about something and you get targeted ads, right? Well, imagine what happens when you start actively looking for things to do.

If I can’t think of something new and timely, I search local calendars. My absolute fave Twin Cities one for kooky ideas is City Pages. I have signed up for their suggestions, as well as tons of others. Here are a few interesting ones:

Only in Your State

MSP Magazine

Eater Twin Cities

Thrillist

Sometimes you have to plan far in advance. I planned this Friday’s date about 3 months ago because I needed to buy tickets for something. I know he would’ve said no if I asked him, but afterward, he will say “I am glad we did this.”

How often do we manage to do date night?

Do we do it every weekend? No, but we try to. I have it on the calendar: Donni plans date night, HWSNBN plans date night, alternating weekends, so we know in advance who’s up to bat (yes, we’ve been to baseball games — and football, and soccer!).

Sometimes life gets in the way and conflicts inevitably arise. It is a lot harder to do when the kids are here, and, full disclosure, we are kind of glad when they go back from whence they came so we can get back to our adventures. We are also pretty busy socially in other ways, so sometimes we have to squeeze stuff in. The holidays are tough. His work travel can make it challenging.

But we can feel when it has been too long.

We start to go back to the boring, with not as much to talk about. Let’s face it: marriage is hard! We have been married 26 years this fall, and actually have known each other for 34 years. When you start out with someone, often the moments are somewhat stolen, and you fit the person into your life. They don’t know you, and you don’t know the, so every little factoid is fascinating (“you use toothpaste? I do too!”). Relationships are like fish: if you don’t keep swimming, they die.

HWSNBN sometimes says he feels like the date nights are a competition. I do not. I feel like they are a great way to learn more about ourselves and to do things that make each of us happy. Maybe I feel this way because I have always felt that pressure to make sure we had a good time, and now I feel it is shared equally.

One side benefit that we didn’t expect: all those people who ask us about date nights. I have people (often life-long Minnesotans who are younger than us) asking for suggestions. I think it’s so cool that we inspired folks to get off the couch and try new things.

Yes, it’s my turn this weekend. We will hit the road around 3pm and drive to an unknown destination (that’s another fun part: keeping it a secret as long as you can!). We have to be back by 930 the next morning, as we are booked solid: the Chilly Open for him in the morning, our Gourmet club Sat night, the Klondike Dog Derby Saturday and Sunday, and cramming as many movies in before we take the couch for the Oscars Sunday night.

And the couch will be okay then because we know that our next adventure is just a few days away! Happy dating to you all!

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

 

Argentina by way of Italy is a Delicious Trek

We visit a lot of new restaurants, so I thought I’d throw in a review here and there for ones we love. We visited Martina in December as part of a double date with folks I’d never met. HWSNBN works with him, and he thought we’d have fun together. So forts we trekked over to the Minnesota Landscape arboretum to ooh and ahh at the holiday light show. This was on my date night list already, so I was happy they chose that as a fun thing to do. Afterward, we went to dinner. It was awesome!

I expected a tiny, overcrowded restaurant and was pleasantly surprised! While the bar was jam-packed, the restaurant itself was open and light.  I also appreciate the combination of trendy and classic decor. Martina is like the love child a California fern bar and a millennial industrial hot spot. Green plants soften stark white walls, and weathered wood tempers exposed metal (I am obsessed with the copper water pitchers and want one NOW). Service was relaxed and friendly, starting with the lovely hostess (n a red blazer I also coveted). Bartenders weren’t as chatty, but let’s face it it was three people deep and no one could hear anyway. But their smiles were loud enough! Our server was great and didn’t look down his nose at his 50-plus customers, even if none of us have tattoos and the men were clean-shaven. That is not always the case in “hip” restaurants, lemme tell ya.

Martina is known for its cocktails, so we ventured in that direction first. I was worried that mine (can’t remember the name) was gonna be nasty (my husband picked it for me) as the only liquor listed was vermouth, which I hate. But it was herbaceous and light and refreshing. He had the Mare, which actually was good for a giggle. He didn’t read what the asterisk signified on the menu (denotes a warning for those with shellfish warnings), so he was worried about what would be in it. We still don’t know what maritime essence is (don’t ask don’t tell), but he liked the drink a lot and the floating mini lilypads were frickin’ darling.

Dinner! First, we had an amazing wine from Cicada that went down super fast and easy and we would’ve ordered another bottle but two of the 3 drinkers were driving and the 3rd felt a solo bottle would be overkill. Settled for a delicious wine by the glass. Our server was able to steer us right which is always appreciated.

Apps: our table had the leek and gorgonzola empanadas (I could’ve made a meal on those) and grilled beef tongue bruschetta. I didn’t get to try that, mainly because it was gone before I could even say “may I try…”

Entrees were plate cleaners as well. Martina’s culinary focus is Italian influenced Argentinian, which is fascinating and oddly a lovely marriage. I had the chef’s take on cacio e pepe, created ravioli style versus with the traditional spaghetti. Each bite was a burst of silky cheesy peppery happiness. My husband had the prosciutto-wrapped cod, because he was fascinated to see how that flavor combo worked (he loved it). The others at the table had the special which was Argentinian-style beef tenderloin, and the grilled octopus which was a visual stunner, and, it’s consumer said, the best he’d ever had.

I left that night excited to come back and took the hostess’s card. I was hoping to arrange a night there for our dinner club but they don’t like to do large parties unless we reserve a whole room. Instead, this will be on our date night list for the future!

Martina: https://www.martinarestaurant.com/

And the Nominees Are…

So my dance card is shaping up for the next several weeks!

Oscar nominations were announced yesterday — of the 9 films nominated for Best Picture, I have seen 4, which is pretty good. I typed up my new “to-do list,” and was able to cross off at least one in each major category:

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My first plan is always to see all the Best Pic noms, then fill out the rest of the major categories. So that’s 11 movies minimum to see before the big show, which is on Feb 9th. This year I really want to attend one of those film fests where they show all the shorts, so gotta start looking for that.

Before I make my plan, I have to see which ones HWSNBN wants to watch with me. I assume he’ll say yes to the Joker, The Two Popes and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. He’d like 1917, but war movies have become very hard for us to watch since Sailor Boy joined the Navy. I’m on the fence as to whether he will want to join me for Marriage Story, Bombshell or Richard Jewell. The rest I know he will say thanks but no thanks, lol!

So if you really want to see one of these, let me know and we’ll get it on the calendar! This week I am focussing on stuff I can see online (new foster puppy, book club weekend, and big Secondhand Hounds event to plan for next week). But starting next week, if you want to find me, you’ll have to look in a darkened theater!

Oh — and as a quick goodbye, here are some looks that caught my eye at the Critics’ Choice Awards last night. Can you guess which ones I liked, and which ones, well, not so much?

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