Author Archives: DonniT
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!
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,
and more naps.
Keep your paws crossed that I will be posting an “adoption pending” pupdate soon!
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,
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.
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!)
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.
And HER was channeling her inner Lenny Kravitz in a very good way.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Sailor Boy called one morning, casually asking what we were doing that weekend. He tried to be sly, but I knew where this was going: he was coming home.
We’d been planning for this for more than a year: he was moving to Italy with the Navy, and needed to come home to bring his car and other supplies, and for some R and R before he moved, and I was taking the road trip to Minnesota with him. Originally this was planned for last July, but he was unexpectedly deployed. Since last April 1, we and his USS Nimitz shipmates had been aboard. They were sailing on, but he got to be flown off early so as to finally change duty stations (as I write this, the Nimitz is days away from FINALLY returning home. Congrats to all!).
So I rearranged my schedule and waited for details. I looked into flights and hotels and driving routes. I researched funky sights and yummy restaurants. Once I got the speciic dates he would be home, I made reservations and waited.
Meanwhile, he was cooling his heels in Bahrain, waiting for transport back to the States. He slept a lot (in a real bed, not a tiny, no privacy rack with 5 other people within reach). He took long showers where he could have the water whatever temperature he chose. He went barefoot. He ate good food, and lots of it. His texts to us revealed the sheer joy he experienced in simple things:
“Oh my god…The (hotel) has a renowned Italian restaurant. I am laughing right now only because I’m on the verge of crying. The wine. The bread. The mozzarella. The everything. I’m back. I am in genuine pleasure over ARUGULA. This is the time where it hits and I know I’m safe.”
It made us happy to hear him happy, but I needed him back where I could see him. A few days later he was back in Washington, and I was days from joining him.
I flew out two days before our road trip. We spent the time before we left packing and purging, closing accounts and saying goodbye to my brother and sister in law who live out there. He also got a Covid test and one last haircut from his favorite stylist.
Then it was time to pile in his Nissan and make the drive!
Before we set off bright and early to catch the Seattle ferry, Sailor Boy wanted me to get a donut from one of his fave places in Bremerton, Dallas Donuts. This tiny unassuming place reminds me of a mom and pop Winchell’s of old. I’m not usually a donut person, but these were GOOD. So good, that I forgot to take a pic of them until the last bite, lol.
From Seattle, he wanted to stop in Leavenworth. I know — in my mind all I could think of was the prison, too. But Leavenworth, WA is super cute. It’s this replica Bavarian town in the Cascade Mountains. Seems the once thriving town fell on hard times when the railroad moved out. Some townspeople visited Germany, and were reminded of how much the mountains there reminded them of home — and realized: we could turn our struggling town into its own fairytale!
The town is full of charm in the form of architecture, shops, bars and restaurants.
I’d have loved to spend more time there, but we just wandered a bit then had a nice, hearty German lunch at Ludwig’s.
After we wiped to grease off our faces, we hit the road, with our evening destination of Missoula, Montana in our sights. Sailor Boy’s job for the trip was to download a book for us to listen to, and he enjoyed his task, spending his last week’s of deployment making his choice. He chose a Terry Pratchett book called Guards! Guards!. I was worried, as I am a visual learner, have never listened to an audiobook, and he likes complicated books with creatures and mystical names and places and stuff. But it was very funny, and we and a ball. It made me think of the nights spent reading books to him at bedtime, only now he was explaining the story to me. I could get used to that.
Along the way we enjoyed some snacks picked up in Leavenworth…
From Washington we hit Idaho, which was pretty unremarkable except for Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. So wish we had hit that area in broad daylight, as the scenery was stunning. Definitely on my list of places to visit in the future!
Shortly after we crossed the Montana border, things started to feel a little different. Like, we went into a gas station and we were the only ones in masks. Even the cops and store keepers didn’t wear them. Freaked me out, I’m not gonna lie. Ironic that as the day darkened to night, so did people’s attitudes towards safety.
The next day our goal was Deadwood, South Dakota. Had breakfast at the hotel, and hit the road.
One of the things I researched before our trip was a cool website called Roadside America. Among other things, it lists all sorts of really odd roadside attractions you can stop ad see on an adventure. We didn’t stop much, but we did read about things as we passed. Our mantra for this stretch of journey: “what the heck, Montana?”
For example, you have the Big Stack. The larest free-standing masonry sculpture in teh world (the Washington Mounument could fit inside it easily),it’s literally an old smokestack. They tore down the factory, but folks in teh area protested, so tehy kept it up. But you can’t get within a mile of it, becasue the ground is toxic thanks to the arsneic and lead from it’s working days. Which leads me to perhaps teh creepiest Montana “toursit attraction” we read about, “the Lake of Death.”
Used to be an open-pit copper mine. Now, according to the Roadside Attractions page, “it’s a massive lake of deadly drainage, as large as 484 football fields, 1,800 feet deep (deeper than any of the Great Lakes) and a mile across. The pit holds over 40 billion gallons of waste so deadly that in 1995 it killed over 300 snow geese that mistakenly landed on it. The snow geese slaughter happened again in late November 2016, when 10,000 of them landed on the liquid and thousands succumbed.” It is a tourist attraction, where you can pay to go see all the pretty colors of the lake, from a safe distance. If you forget to bring a lunch to enjoy at the picnic tables, they have a snack bar. Just don’t mind the horns they have to keep honking to save more wayward birds…
So yeah: what the heck, Montana?
We stopped in Billings for lunch, where we found a wonderful Mexican restaurant called Don Luis. I was driving that afternoon, so I let Sailor Boy tell me all about their sangria (I did take a sip — it was great!).
Later that afternoon we were getting low on gas and started to look for places to fill up. I wanted to stop right away, but listened to my son. He was sure we were fine. It was his car, so he knew it better, but I didn’t like it. So on we drove, through a very quiet, very isolated Native American reservation. No gas stations. Not very many houses. The light on the dash was getting brighter. My anxiety was rising. We finally saw a sign for a town, and I relaxed a bit — until we got there.
We turned in the direction the signs indicated, and were stopped by a road block. Flashing signs warned of local traffic only due to a Covid outbreak.
I asked the man at the barrier if we could just go in and get some gas, but he said absolutely not. In fact, they weren’t even allowing supplies in, so the gas station was empty anyway. Besides, there was a gas station about 20 miles up the road.
Grrr. (at least we had churros leftover from lunch)
I glared at my son, and drive on, carefully. Holding my breath. I breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the station in the distance, and told my son we wouldn’t be taking that risk again. Of course, he felt we were more at risk at this stop, as no one was masked here either. Just miles from an outbreak, that wasn’t comforting.
Back in the car, with old timey Deadwood — and a cocktail — on our minds.
The good news: we got there safely. The bad news: even fewer masks!
This was the only hotel we went to where the staff didn’t wear masks (except for the front desk woman who put hers on when we walked in). I purposely chose Marriott properties for all of our stays, assuming they would be safe. Not so much this one. Ugh. The hotel was nice, but we didn’t linger in the hallways, wouldn’t visit the bar (I really wanted that cocktail), and in the morning refused to enjoy the free breakfast. Dinner that night was nice, but even there: no masks. I hadn’t seen a server’s whole face in almost a year. It was so uncomfortable! I hated it. Even small children started at us for being masked. Clearly South Dakota didn’t believe in science. The town lost out on dollars from us, but it didn’t look like they were hurting. That’s cool. You stay in your state, I’ll stay in mine.
So leaving Deadwood behind was easy! I’m not sure I want to visit when things get better, which made me sad.
The next morning we could’ve driven straight to Minnesota, but we wanted to make a couple of stops. Just a short 40 minutes from Deadwood we reached the Crazy Horse Memorial, then after that visited Mount Rushmore. Both were more impressive than I thought they would be, and I am so glad we stopped. The museum at the Crazy Horse memorial is really amazing. Definitely check it out if you can!
And even though we didn’t find any treasure, or see Nicolas cage, we marveled at the beauty of Mount Rushmore.
And we saw a mountain goat on the side of the road!
We had originally discussed stopping in Darwin, MN, to see the world’s largest ball of twine, but Sailor Boy was way too excited to get home. Grabbed a couple power ball tickets, some road snacks (gotta have Corn Nuts), and some weird wine called Red Ass Rhubarb for later and powered through — with one more detour.
We almost stopped at Wall Drug, but after a dozen miles and what felt like hundreds of signs, we were exhausted by the very idea. Like seeing an overlong preview at the movies (remember those?), I felt like we’d seen it all and didn’t need to spring for the feature.
Instead, we pulled off in Mitchell, South Dakota, and enjoyed the glory that is the Corn Palace.
I love kitsch.
As the hours passed, Sailor Boy became more and more excited. Home was on the distant horizon. He didn’t really recognize anything until we were about 30 minutes from home, but that was okay. Soon he’d be in his bed, with his dog and his dad, and would start the longest stretch of time spent there since joining the Navy five years prior. Pulling into that driveway after three long days of road tripping was wonderful!
We truly were lucky on the drive. No major issues (and since neither of us later broke with Covid, our masks and hand sanitizer seemed to do the trick, thank goodness), no weather, no car trouble.
Flash forward a week and a half, when we drove to Michigan to take the now road-weary car to Singer Girl, who would be using it while it’s rightful owner was overseas. A storm hit the day we had to drive, and our 10 hour drive lasted 14 hours. We barely made it to town in time before restaurants closed, but grabbed dinner and had Singer Girl’s apartment in our sights — when we were rear-ended by some poor college kid who slid on the unplowed roads. After exchanging info, we continued on — only to get stuck in the snow outside her building. With his bum shoulder and my bad elbow, we were a sight trying to push that car free. Later, after dinner in her apartment, we travelled to the hotel — which didn’t have an attached parking garage, so we drug my suitcase through the snow. But only mine, mind you: we left his in Minnesota.
I guess one out of 2 easy road trips ain’t bad.
Let’s be honest: the past two years I have made lengthy New Year’s resolutions commitments that were more like to do lists. And I did not to do them.
You know what would’ve been GREAT resolutions for 2020? Read more. Spend more time with family. Catch up on TV shows and movies. Work in the yard.
Cuz I SLAYED those.
But hey, if 2020 taught us anything, it’s how to pivot, right?
So this year, I am resolving to walk my dog once a week.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we are super lazy and rely on her to exercise herself through play dates, twice weekly daycare, or just running around the yard on her own. Every time we are out in the yard with her, she is so happy and wants to play, and I feel so bad that we don’t do it more — especially in winter.
(in rescue we’ve actually talked about how we often prefer adopters who DON’T have fenced yards, as they walk their dogs more regularly than those lazy bums like me.)
I figure if I promise to walk her once a week, I’ll also be getting in more exercise for me, so that’s a good thing as well. Because of course I did not hit the exercise more/lose weight goal I set last New Year’s. Or the one before that.
I will be printing out my resolutions from last year and making them an actual to do list — and, hopefully, getting them all done.
In the mean time, I need to go dust off my winter dog walking boots!
Yes, I realize that I am a month late on this. But, once again, here is my recap of the 30 days of thankfulness I do every November on Facebook. What are YOU thankful for (besides the fact that 2020 is OVER!!!!)?
Thankful project Day 1: (we need this more than ever this year. Dig deep. Find the every day joys!) My neighborhood! My biggest fear leaving our treasured McKinley Court community was not finding new people to smile at in our new place. Well, 6 years later, I can truly say we have chosen well. This year we have really come together and realized how important those “mailbox” connections are. We are lucky! I love Walden!
Thankful project day 2: grateful that Stevie Nicks, despite stealing a bag of chewy sticks and 6 pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting while we were out, did not puke during the night.
Thankful project day 3 (make that hopeful projection that will make me thankful if it comes true): Thankful that, no matter what happens today, tomorrow our country will start to heal. That, if our candidate wins, we have all acted with grace, humility, and quiet hope. So no gloating publicly (but yes, you can feel happy), because that is not how you get people to listen to you. And no rioting/destruction/ugly name calling (but yeah, you can be pissed or sad). This country should embrace differences, not mock them. Our variety is what makes us special, not what divides us. So today: vote for a side. Tomorrow: let’s start stitching things back together. And it starts with you, not whoever sits in the Oval Office. I am not a religious person, but I have always liked the phrase “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” So if my candidate prevails, I will not gloat. If my candidate loses, I will take it upon myself to change the world in whatever little way I can. Try to think of something positive you can do for one person, especially if that person is politically opposite from you. Be the person you want your kids (and your President) to be. Now: go vote!
Thankful project day 4: when my sailor’s ship is near land and he can text!
Thankful project day 5: more internet access for Sailor Boy means PHOTOS!
Thankful project day 7: the weather!!! Probably won’t be this warm for another 5-6 months! TGIF!
Thankful project day 7: that we committed to donating blood regularly ( a COVID silver lining!). Today we stepped it up and donated platelets! Please donate. They are seeing a drop off during COVID times.
Thankful project day 8: that HWSNBN was paying close attention when driving and didn’t hit the chocolate lab that darted in front of our car this evening. We quickly pulled over, I grabbed a leash and a handful of treats, and called to the woofer, assuming he would run. Nope: typical lab. Ran over, wagged his tail, and hopped in the back seat with a bewildered Stevie Nicks. Got home, found his name and number neatly embroidered on his collar (hi Oscar!) and called his grateful people. While we waited, he ran joyfully around the house, ransacking the toy box with glee. So glad it ended that way.
Thankful project day 9: 3 days and 3 1/2 hours until the next original song drops! (this is about Singer Girl’s song, that was soon to come out. IN the mean time, I was sharing one of her tiktok videos. Do you follow her? She’s @frankienstein3
Thankful project day 10: that my brother and I made it through the election cycle “relationshiply” unscathed, and, TBH, I feel we are closer than we have been in years. Happy birthday, Trevor S Rice!
Thankful project day 11: that the cortisone shot in my elbow is in the rear view. Ouch.
Thankful project day 12; the public library! For someone like me, who burns through several books a month, it’s a financial lifesaver! Although, TBH, I also spend a good chunk of change at Excelsior Bay Books, so I’m not totally thrifty. But hey: BOOKS!
Thankful project day 13: Cargill! Tonight I attended a fund raising event at a dog park in Plymouth, where Cargill employees paid for the privilege to stand in the wind and snow with happy puppies, all to raise money for Secondhand Hounds. So cool! Btw don’t forget November 19th is Give to the Max Day, but you can donate now and all donations will be matched by a generous donor!
Thankful project day 14: THE NEW SINGLE IS HERE! Like/follow/share on all platforms! Download on Spotify, iTunes, amazon, YouTube, etc. Wherever you get your music. But please share! Legend (Gin&Tonic).
Thankful project day 14: nature! This was a crazy, random moment off our balcony in Vail! Foxy lady! (see more on this in my previous post, “A-Vailing Ourselves of Colorado”)
Oops: missed day 15!
Thankful project day 16: bulldogs in baby carriages!
Thankful project day 17: dinners like this. (again — see previous blog, and the pic of our staying-in meal).
Oops…another missed day, #18…
Thankful project day 19: I missed yesterday, so today will be an all-day affair! Today I am thankful for YOU, and all the support you will give your favorite Minnesota charities today. It is the annual Give to the Max day! Below is my blog post about one tiny baby saved by Secondhand Hounds. If this or any of the stories you see today inspire you, please donate! (See blog post, “Weeble May Wobble but she Don’t Fall Down”)
Thankful project day 20: the enormous generosity of Minnesotans! Yesterday people gave more than $30million to Minnesota charities. We assumed that Give to the Max Day would not be as lucrative as in last years (pandemic!), but it was a record breaker! I look forward to sharing many amazing updates in the future about the animals we will save with the money!
(And another skipped day…)
Thankful project day 22: Singer Girl (aka Francesca Torres) is home for 2 months! (this was supposed to be my TP D 21, but my info was wrong and her flight was today. Now I need to double up some day…)
Thankful project day 23: fostering! This pic popped up today. It’s HWSNBN and our very first foster, Etta. What a journey she kicked off! That decision changed my life in so many ways. It was a time when I saw the empty nest looming, and kind of wondered: what’s next? lol, be careful what you ask the universe!
Thankful Project day 24: today has been a tough one. I hate vague booking, but I can’t go into details. Suffice it to say I cried and I swore and I worried. But things can always be worse. And, for that perspective, I am grateful. (this was about my sailor son, I can now say. Deployment has been tough).
Thankful project day 25: hearing my girl sing again in the basement. Does my soul good! (and now she’s doing opera, no less. Even makes my cocktail taste better!)
Thankful Project day 26: elastic waistbands. (this was on Thanksgiving, lol)
Thankful project day 27: the simple things, like a long bath (made complete with a CBD bath bomb from Jes Naturals – CBD Wellness, btw), a very full glass of wine, a fun book, and knowing that I neither have to shave my legs or put on a bra. Thanks, COVID, for another Friday night in! Time to fire up the Netflix!
Thankful project day 28: all the people out for small business Saturday in Excelsior! We shopped until mom dropped — the weather was beautiful, the shops filled with goodies, and the shopkeepers were immensely grateful. Some eve had to have people wait outside because they were at COVID capacity!
Thankful Project day 29: zoom calls. I know, I know: yawn. But today, thanks to Zoom, I attended a baby shower in North Carolina, and hung with some of my fave women in my book club. No, it’s not the same as in person. But it is so very much better than nothing!
Thankful project day yesterday (whoops — posted on Dec 1): as the month wrapped up, I tried to think of something profound, but then I realized I was me, so I stopped. Anywho…I feel like I mention silver linings a lot, but I do think they are important. I think I have mentioned that the events of the past year, from the pandemic to the rioting to the elections, have caused me to take a deeper look at myself and how I interact with my community. I have become incredibly aware of shopping local whenever possible — and am now thus on a first name basis with some shopkeepers in Excelsior, and I can tell you I feel much brighter and lighter leaving those stores than I do a big box! (I still shop big as well, but only when I “have” to). I am going to try to patronize a new small business each week, whether a shop, a restaurant, etc. I am already thankful for the new friends I shall meet! Happy December, everyone!
While blessed with many, many friends, there is only one Unicorn Squad.
The Squad is the three couples that Vegas together yearly, plus make merry in countless other ways. We have distanced ourselves a lot since spring, but have convened in the great out of doors when we have felt safe (and the rules have allowed it). But we needed more than a few hours around a bonfire — and Vegas was neither in the cards nor on the table.
We had a bunch of timeshare points burning a hole in our pockets, but clearly 2020 has not been a great travel year. I wanted to take us all somewhere we could be outside, and where it wouldn’t be crowded, and where we could stay in separate condos. I wanted to have fun, but wanted to minimize risks — so we went to Vail, the week before the ski slopes opened (it didn’t hurt that one of the Unicorn offspring lives and works there so we got to see her in her element!).
After piling into the not so glamourous but highly functional multi-passenger not quite windowless van (there were many van down by the river jokes that weekend), we headed west from Denver airport through the stunning mountains to Vail. On the way, we stopped for lunch at the highly recommended (and rightly so ) Beau Jo’s for pizza and beer. Before we arrived, the Vail Offspring asked us to pick her up an order of crust with honey. We were baffled. Then we tried it. Oh my…I am a convert!
Back on the road, we hit up a grocery store for provisions. Wisely, We separated by couples to make it quicker. Foolishly, we did not compare carts so there was much overlap (more on that later).
We were staying at the Marriott Streamside. Each of us had cute one bedroom condos with 2 baths, our own kitchens, living rooms, fireplaces and balconies. It was perfect for spreading out so no one felt on top of each other. I think we all felt the need for a change of scenery from our homes. Who hasn’t seen more of their home’s inside in the past several months? Within an hour of checking in, I was out on the balcony, watching a gorgeous fox wander around outside. In case you were wondering, he didn’t say much. But he was stunning, and came to visit often during our stay.
That night we made our first foray to Vail Village, where we enjoyed dinner at The George, another fave of the Vail Offspring and her man. It was super casual and comfy — noshing plum duck on the couch surrounded by friends and cold beer? Yes, please. The place was pretty empty, which we appreciated. All the folks there seemed to work at the resorts, and were enjoying their last few days of calm before the tourist storm hit. I can totally picture this pace busy filled with the après ski set, smelling of damp wool sweaters, ringing with laughter, offering glimpses of the snow outside world through steamed up windows.
The next day we tried to kick off with breakfast at another fave spot, but they were closed. So we found another cool spot known for Bloody Mary’s, the Westside Cafe. It was here I discovered hatch chile chili, which immediately became by Vail food obsession (I ordered it everywhere I could).
After breakfast we headed to Vail village, where I had set up the morning’s activity. We were doing a Scavenger Hunt, from Let’s Roam. When I announced this game, I now my friends’ eyes rolled behind my back, but when we were done even the grumpiest skeptic agreed it was a fun way to see the area. This particular hunt focused on art, so we were always searching for hidden and not so hidden pieces of pubic art. We also had to do fun activities! I love doing these! I highly recommend you find out of there is one in your home town, and in the next place you travel!
Dinner was at The Fall Line, where we were probably a little loud and silly for such a nice place. I think altitude, lack of sleep and adult beverages contributed to our silliness.
We slept in the next morning, and ate in our rooms. Then it was off to the famous hot springs. It was a gorgeous drive, about an hour long, to get to where we were supposed to be going.
But we never made it there — because we (I) put the wrong hot springs place into the GPS. While we did find a hot springs establishment, it was a little more like the swimming pool in Cocoon than the natural, glamorous place we had picked out. In fact, at one point we saw three women gliding about that totally were a glimpse into our future. One blond, one brunette, one with a crazy leopard print hat (guess which one I was?).
We needed a night in, so the couples decided to pool our resources and meet in our condo. Clearly, we had similar tastes, as we each brought meat and cheese platters to the party.
After much laughter, and an 80s trivia gane we all decimated, we crashed so we could enjoy our last full day in Vail.
For breakfast we finally made it to the restaurant we’d been aiming for the first morning, the famous Little Diner. My hunger meter guided me towards a spicy bloody and pork green chili, and I was not disappointed!
Today was our wander and shop day. You could tell the slopes were opening the next day. The energy was different. Shops were stocking up and decorating for the holidays. As the day progressed, more people were in the village. Ordinarily, I would like some hustle and bustle, and I would like to return when it’s “normal.” But we started to feel a little more vulnerable, and were glad that we would be leaving before the crowds arrived.
With cocktail breaks at El Segundo and the Red Lion, we finished up our shopping. My fave purchases were some super splurgy leather mittens for myself, an some antique dice cufflinks for HWSNBN to wear on our next Vegas trip. Then it was time to chill before dinner. When planning for the trip, I had struggled finding places that were open for more than just takeout. Again, most weren’t opening until we left. I chose a place called The Fitz. It was a bit too casual for our last night, so that was disappointing, but the food was good!
This definitely seems like a great place to eat outside and enjoy the view, so on a return trip we might try that out.
We made the Vail Offspring and beau come back to the condos with us so we could load them up with all the food and alcohol we wouldn’t be finishing. Sa you can see, they were set for awhile.
Leaving Vail was sad, but, as I said, it was started to get busy so timing was perfect. I wouldn’t have felt okay about the trip if it had been crowded. Being able to spread out inside and be outside in the sunshine was just perfect. Batteries recharged, we headed back to Minnesota. Not sure when the Squad will get to travel together again, but we are planning it — and we know it will be fun.
Oh: and helpful hint — oxygen canisters for the win in high altitudes (and maybe a good Vegas pick me up, too, lol!)
Singer Girl dropped a new song yesterday!
Chipped is the last of the three songs she wrote and recorded over quarantine summer. This one’s a bit sad, about a couple who are married, but maybe shouldn’t be. Please give it a listen!
What do you think? How does it compare with the others she released? If you like what you hear, please like, download and share! And do you follow her on tiktok? It’s a great way to hear the wide variety of styles she likes to work with (her handle is @frankienstein3).
Right now she is writing more songs, partnering with a guitarist friend so she can get a different sound. I know she longs to get back on stage with a band! Hopefully, next summer we can all enjoy live music again.