Author Archives: DonniT
(Meant to post this last week. What a shocker: my blog is late…)
In November I do “the Thankful Project.” That means that every day of the month I post on Facebook something I am thankful for. Some days it’s easy to come up with something that makes me genuinely grateful. Other days, its a struggle. But I think that’s the point of the exercise: no matter what is going on in your life, you need to know that there is good in your life.
Here’s a day to day account of this month’s project!
Thankful project day 1: HWSNBN is home from his European trip, and so tonight: we date!
Thankful project day 2: spending the day with my friend Anna learning travel secrets at the Thrifty Traveler University. My head is reeling with all the info, but I can’t wait to put it to use!
Thankful project day 3: In a few hours I will see my girlie!!! Been more than 2 months since I’ve seen Singer Girl!
Thankful project day 4: the amazing volunteers at Secondhand Hounds. Every week it seems I have a puppy party staffing crisis. But somehow, all the dogs, drivers and wranglers come together in the end. And I can breathe, even when a time Zone away!(I was visiting Singer Girl at school in Ann Arbor)
Thankful project day 7: Kate at Peak Life Clinic! Who knew getting voluntarily suck with dozens of little needles would make me feel so good? Headache? What headache?http://peaklifeclinic.com/?fbclid=IwAR1YVaK83QYe5YDXO60UBos4vDClXTXjQpYoFS2fP1f1mzysPjhf3CC9D4A
Thankful project day 8: that I am able to spend fun days with my mom! Thanks for planning our outing! (we went to a huge craft fair/Christmas boutique event at US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings)
Thankful project day 9: tears and heartache. Today I said goodbye to the last of the sub pups. Stickball Special was my favorite from day one, and I’d be lying if I wasn’t a tiny bit grateful every time the vet said he needed more time before he could go to his forever home. So today I cried. And my heart hurts. But when I see the smile on his adopter’s face, I know it’s okay. Lots of highs fostering this group (like having folks call them fat when I know how hard we worked to feed them) and lows (I still miss sweet Phyllis). My heart hurts, but I am grateful for the opportunity to help them survive and thrive. @shhfostersmn #StickballSpecial #Styx #neonatal #givetothemaxday #adopted #yellowlab @ Lake Minnetonka
Thankful project day 10: that I live in a place that has so much character and variety and fun (and that I have cool friends who want to explore it with me!). Today’s calories brought to you from @kegandcasemn , @truckparkusa, #cosettasstpaul #sundayfunday #thankfulproject #food #stpaul #minnevangelist @ Saint Paul, Minnesota
Thankful project day 11: my dad, my son, my nephew, my father in law, my uncle, my brother in law, my grandfathers, and all my ancestors who have served in all the wars of this country. Thank you for your service. (Veterans’ Day post)
Thankful project day 12 (yesterday!): that I have found the Skipper salute community, where we hold each other’s hands while we hand over kleenex and pour the wine. This weekend I get to help make holiday care packages for military men and women deployed all over the globe through the valiant efforts of Semper Fi Flo. If you want to help, she is still accepting donations!
Thankful project day 13: I am FINALLY getting around to getting the Spooktacular pics published! (this referenced my Halloween Party blog post)
Thankful project day 14: thanks to everyone who has donated today to their favorite charities! Give to the Max Day is THE BIGGEST day of the year for many. It certainly is for Secondhand Hounds! What happens today determines the course of the next year — who we can save. We have a benefactor who has pledged to match your donations, so please contribute something. ANYTHING will help! Donate before midnight tonight!
Thankful project day 15: yesterday I kinda chilled, as the day before had been pretty darn crazy! Two puppy parties, and lots of online stalking watching the G2theMax numbers changing. At the end, we did it. Actually, YOU did it! Secondhand Hounds brought in $400,000 in donations! That. Is Amazing. Every dollar will count — whether it’s $10 to microchip a dog, or $5000 to save a sick litter of puppies with parvo or distemper (we have THREE such litters right now, two with parvo, one with distemper. So far we have lost about six puppies, but we are working hard to save the rest. Vaccinate your pets, people!!!). Thank you to all!
Thankful project day 16: Stevie Nicks! Happy gotcha day, Miss Stevie. The Stevester has been with us officially for one year today, and we couldn’t be more grateful. She is still a bit of a hot mess at times (some people have dogs who defend their homes against strangers. Ours pees.). And yet again we find ourselves dog proofing when we leave the house — but not against food, as we did for Penny Torres, but for anything miss neurotic can destroy during her fear we won’t return. Like tissues. Or baking soda. Or scrub brushes. But she is bombproof with puppies, a hilarious goofball, and makes coming home a joy. I recommend everyone feather their empty nest with a touch of fur!
Thankful project day 17: cooking. I am grateful that having food is a given for me and those I love. I am grateful that I get joy from cooking. I am grateful that I have people with whom to share a meal. Tonight’s meal includes wild rice given to me as a gift from the lovely gal who adopted my last foster. Food brings us together!
Thankful project day 18: the Power of 100. This amazing group of like-minded women meets quarterly to choose a locally-based charity to support. Each time three people present worthy options and the group votes who to support. After many tries on my part, they picked the neonatal program at Secondhand Hounds.
Some folks have questioned why I kept presenting. Well, every time I got up and spoke, a few people stopped me afterwards. Either to hand me a separate check, or to ask questions. I met wonderful women who were genuinely I trigger about fostering, adoption, rescue, and how they could help. So yes: the meant is amazing. But the chance to bring awareness is invaluable.
If you would like to learn more about the Power of 100, come with me next time! It’s a fun, quick, casual gathering, and the group has donated more than $100,000 to local charities!
Thankful project day 19: going clubbing in my 50s. Wine club, meet book club. #thankful #thankfulproject #bookclub #wineclub @pejuwinery #pinotnoir @calmereestatewinery @annpatchett #thedutchhouse #wine
Thankful project day 20 (yesterday): Etsy! I can shop online and still support small business people!!
Thankful project day 21: the moments I have left with my dad.
Thankful project day 22: a quiet night at home. Dinner will likely be popcorn and wine, and I’m okay with that. Busy (but fun) weeks ahead!
Thankful project day 24: that my brother Trevor found Sarah and married her 6 years ago today. She’s a keeper. Him? Jury’s still out. Happy anniversary you crazy kids!
Thankful project day 25: bubble baths, books, and wine! (yeah, I’ve mentioned 2 of the 3 of those before. But I am on my third book since that post, and well, like more than that bottles of wine since then)
Thankful project day 26 (again, a day late): the girl is home! And thank goodness Singer Girl arrived before the storm!
Thankful project day 27: (I posted a link to my blog post, “Merry Thanksvgivmas”)
Thankful project day 28: the Melly-dallys and their infinite hospitality. Thank you, Mike, Erika, Lucy, Joey and Paige for another fun, delicious Thanksgiving. Fat and happy, signing off!
Thankful project day 29: When you are ready to snuggle in for the night before 7pm, and Netflix drops an almost 4 hour movie that you’ve been excited to see. I mean, I know we’ll never finish it in one sitting, but at least we have a fighting chance to get it more than halfway done! (NOTE: we watched “The Irishman.” So good!)
Thankful project day 30: the tree is up, and my girl Is home for one last night. It has been an emotional few days, and I will miss her again when she is gone.
We all need to concentrate on what we have in this life, and not worry so much about what we lack. I am thankful for all of you!
This is my entry hall table, and the display symbolizes how I feel about this time of the season.
Torn between two lovers, eatin’ lots of food…
Oh wait. That’s not how the song goes. But it’s kind of appropriate.
Thanksgiving falls stressfully close to Christmas this year. So while I am excited that my daughter is home for a few days (and making pies in the other room with a childhood friend right now. Mama joys!), it’s kind of like a pressure cooker holiday season.
Like my table, Christmas is wedging itself into Thanksgiving. The Poinsettia is like every store, throwing holiday cheer in my face whether I want it to or not. The Amaryllis are laying in wait, politely taking their time. But, like Christmas, I know when they arrive, they will be unavoidable and require my total attention.
Meanwhile, the guest book lies waiting for all the happy, busy voices that will come and go in the next few weeks!
I love Christmas. I really do. And yes: I have started my shopping, but mainly because I hate feeling pressured at the end. And yes, I have poinsettias all over already, but that’s because last weekend the cheerleaders dropped them off (and the choir brought wreaths and garland, and the boy scouts delivered my holiday pots).
A holiday purist, the tree will not be purchased or put up until after Thanksgiving. And yes, it will be a real tree. And yes, I will be cleaning up needles for weeks. And yes, I will be okay with it, you fake tree aficionados! HWSNBN and I will do half the tree decorating soon, as I can’t stare at a naked tree for long. Bt we will do the bulk of the decorations — namely the ornaments with memories — until after the kids arrive. Yes: both of them! Sailor Boy and Singer Girl will both be here for the holiday. Woot woot!
I know I am not the only one who feels stretched and pulled like a pair of leggings after that second helping of pie. In the evenings between December 1 and 25, I already have 14 evening commitments. I am looking forward to them all individually, but maybe not collectively?
But for the next 48 hours, it’s Thanksgiving, and I will be thankful for everything. I won’t complain about the family dramas, because I am glad to have a family. I won’t complain about eating too much, because I have food. I won’t complain about the dishes or the driving or the too-tight clothes the next day or the weather or anything. Because: I am thankful.
So to all of you who find the line blurred as well this year, whichever side you straddle:
Gobble gobble, ho ho ho! I hope you enjoy everything as much as sanely possible. I’ll think of you all tomorrow between Cranberry Margaritas!
So I said goodbye to the last of the Sub pups last week. They lived with me for almost three months — three months of laughter and tears and hopes and fears. They were not my first fosters, nor will they be my last, but I wanted to share them with you all on this very important day.
Today is Give to the Max Day (donate now at https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds). It is the single most important day all year for Secondhand Hounds and thousands of other charities. What we raise today will determine the course of the next year: will we be able to save the broken, the sick, the doomed? It depends, really, on you.
If not for the donations of others, I wouldn’t have met the Sub Pups. They were born July 7th to a breeder mama. There were seven in her yellow lab litter and five had cleft palates. That means they could not eat, not by nursing mama or drinking from a bottle. Historically, breeders often chose to euthanize imperfect puppies. Yes, it seems heartless, but breeding is a business first and foremost, and there is no way a breeder is going to sell a “defective” puppy for full price. Not to mention get back the man-hours and dollars it takes to treat them.
Rescue is about a lot of things, but it is definitely NOT about making money.
So Secondhand Hounds created the Neonatal division, and the coordinator, Teri, has worked hard to let breeders and their veterinarians know that there is another option: surrender the animals to us, and we will do our best to fix them and get them homes. This wonderful breeder agreed to let us help, and we took four of the puppies.
(Actually, Teri climbed out of bed, made some coffee, hopped in her car and drove hours to get them. Then she snuggled them into the incubator plugged into her car and warming in the passenger seat. She also had to pull over and feed them every 2-3 hours. They were just hours old).
And how did she feed them? Well, since conventional methods don’t work for cleft babies, she (and, later, me) had to insert a tube down their throat and into their stomach and syringe-feed them through that tube. And no: you can’t buy puppy formula at the store. Teri had to figure out her own formula through trial and error (it’s a lot of goat’s milk and Greek yogurt!)
The sandwich shop Jersey Mike’s had run a wonderful fundraiser for us, so they had been given naming rights, and the Sub Pups were born: Jersey Mike, Big Kahuna, Stickball Special (aka Styx) and Philly Cheesesteak (aka Phyllis, the lone girl).
In some ways they were the perfect fosters: they never made a sound. They slept through the night. In fact, they slept ALL THE TIME. I guess that was partly because they were puppies, and partly because they weren’t all that healthy. At the time I got them, they were transitioning to solid food. It’s a challenging time with any puppy (or human infant!), but even more so for a cleft baby. Every time they tried to eat, it would go up through the hole in the roof of their mouths and they would sneeze and couch and it would be yucky out their noses. So we had to get them on solid food asap, and away from mushy baby food.
I still supplemented them with tube feedings, and every day I weighed them, panicking when they lost an ounce, celebrating at every milestone: they all came in under two pounds, so that first 2 pounder was huge for me!
So they did the puppy thing. They ate.
(they drank out of what I called a rabbit water bottle so as to not choke on water)
They learned to play!
And they slept.
When they were all diagnosed with pneumonia, we weren’t surprised. It happens. It’s pretty common with cleft palates, as any fluids they consume can easily travel into the lungs. So we started treating them, and we thought they were all getting better.
But not Phyllis.
Little Philly Cheesesteak started craning her neck — like a turtle. I showed it to Teri, and our founder, Rachel, and they decided she needed to go to the emergency vet.
I never saw her again.
Philly Cheesesteak didn’t make it.
The sweet little girlie, the littlest one. She looked like an absolute toy. The vets tried for days, but ultimately she passed in her sleep.
Phyllis was the first foster I have lost. I grieve her all the time, but I know that I did all I could. That SHH did all it could. And I had three little yellow boys who needed me, so it was time to get re-focused.
I was nebulizing them. I was giving them steam showers. I gave meds several times a day. I did chest percussion treatment to loosen the phlegm. And they began to grow.
From day one I followed the Secondhand Hounds protocol, socializing them and exposing them to sounds and surfaces and textures.
Soon it was time to start talking adoption!
Mike was the first to find his people.
His new name is Winston, and he is being spoiled quite nicely, thank you!
Then Big Kahuna moved on and was renamed, Barney.
Both Winston and Barney have cat siblings, and are doing just fine with that!
Styx had to be with me longer, as his lungs just wouldn’t clear up. We sent him to a specialist, who vacuumed his lungs and did a culture and we changed medicines. Two weeks later his x rays were much better, so I started contacting potential adopters. Two weeks after that, he was able to go home.
Now Mr. Styx got to keep his name. It works well with the resident cat’s name, Skittles. But one kitty isn’t his only furry sibling!
Styx is an office dog now, who has his own cubicle and gets plenty of love!
When the pups are 6 months old, they will have surgery to correct their cleft palates. If all goes well, they should live the lives of normal, happy, loved dogs. But Secondhand Hounds has bills to pay. When we are done, we will have spent more than $10,000 on their care. We will not recoup that cost from adoption fees. We rely on your donations.
So consider donating, please. Because there are hundreds of animals we want to save. So far, in 10 years, SHH has saved more than 10,000 cats and dogs. Every day we hear of another one that needs help — a dog found starving and abused, a cat who had a litter by the side of the road, a breeder pup born with hydrocephaly, an animal abandoned because it was old and now needs hospice care. We have a donor who is willing to match all donations on Give to the Max Day dollar for dollar. So please: get that donation in NOW! https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds
In the meantime, here are a few more cute pics to remind you of where your money goes!
That link for donation again is https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds
When we announced there would be no theme for this year’s Halloween Spooktacular party, people gasped. What would they do, without any guidance? Turns out, they can do a lot!
This seemed to be the season of the aliens!
Superheroes and villains showed up:
Some were silly, some were scary, some couples went as one of each!
Contest winners this year were the two fawns for best couple and Danerys Targaryen for best individual! (but Dany isn’t anyone without her John Snow, so here they all are!)
Food is always an important part of the party, and the guests never disappoint!
The party was, as always, as fun as the people who attend!
As always, some went beautifully simple, while others went over the top. I think it was fun to give folks the year off of forced thinking. But they are not off the hook for next year. Spooktacular 2020 will be all about High School. Because High School was Scary!
(BTW the above picture is the only one I have of HWSNBN as Paul Bunyan. If anyone got any better ones, please let me know!)
Recently I visited my dad in his memory care facility. Dad has been at his current home for a while. He is getting less and less communicative and even responsive. At this last visit, neither of us got much comfort out of face to face time, so I stood behind him, gently massaging his back and neck. I remembered when my brother and I were little, and giving dad karate chop massages was a regular art of our afer dinner shenanigans. This felt different, of course, but you cling to associations.
Nearby, a man was visiting a woman, his wife, I later learned. I hadn’t seen either of them before, and it quickly became clear that she was a very new resident. He was worried about her. You could tell he had been her caretaker and felt somewhat adrift.
He had brought her a toy, he told the attendant. He thought she might like it. It was a stuffed animal she’d always had on their bed. The attendant smiled kindly, admired it, and gently advised he put her name on it.
He hadn’t yet learned that objects grow legs in an Alzheimer’s ward, as everything looks both familiar and foreign to the residents.
He mentioned that she needed a bath. He said “I don’t know if she’ll mention it.”
The wife sat quietly, perhaps asleep. She clearly would never again remind someone of her hygiene needs. She was limp — except for the pillows the attendant had used to prop her up. Said she seemed to like that.
The attendant said his wife had eaten a good breakfast. That seemed to take one worry line out of his forehead.
Until he realized, and my heart wrenched with his as he quietly said, “The last thing we did together was eat supper.”
Becasue even though she was still alive, their relationship, as he knew it, died the morning he moved her to the memory care unit. I saw this as my mom must have, and remembered the pain in her voice, and even in her posture. The guilt, the certain surety that she had failed him as a wife. I knew he felt this way now.
“I don’t know what to bring for her,” he said.
“Just a little bit at a time,” the attendant softly responded.
“Maybe I’ll put some butterflies up on her wall,” he said, to himself mostly, all the while patting her hair, adjusting her blanket, caressing her hand.
From where I stood, one wheelchair over but trying to give them privac, I saw an older couple, a man bereft and a woman sliding into her own end, one forgotten memory at a time.
But from his vantage point he saw the young woman he had romanced, who had made his home nice, whom he now wanted to repay in kind.
I cried in the parking lot when I left, thinking of my parents. Of me and my husband. Of my daughter’s face as she asks me if she, too, will someday be like Grandpa. I, of course, can’t answer her.
I can only hope she always has someone who wants to put butterflies on her wall.
OK, folks, you asked for it. The write up from the annual food pilgrimage known as the Minnesota State Fair.
Every year I make a plan, and every year I think I get better at it. This time, I made a group chat for everyone in our group and linked the list of the new fair foods. Then asked them for what THEY really wanted to try. Then, I read through sooo many food reviews to solidify my top choices. Then came THE MAP.
I printed out a black and white map of the fairgrounds and divided into 6 color-coded food zones. then I listed every food we were interested in trying, and figure out which zone they were in.
It worked great. As we waddled through the fair, I would declare: we are entering the “green zone. The following foods are in this area!” Then we would all decide which enticed us the most and set off in search of those things.
Before I start off, let me preface this by saying I did not eat all of everything. In fact, some things I never even tried. It was, and always is, a group endeavor. I usually have one-three bites of an item, depending on if I love it or not. Our crew:
Here is what we ate, in order, and what we thought of what we consumed:
Nashville Hot Chicken on a stick, from the Blue Barn:
I loved it but was surprised at how sweet it was. I would’ve liked more heat (it was more Minneapolis than Nashville, TBH). In our group, most thought that while the crunch was great, it was too sweet.
While I was getting that, others in our group split off for Bang Bang chicken tenders at Lulu’s Public House — Joey D declared them the second best food of the day (no picture — the crew was not yet in the zone of pics before eating!). Miranda stopped at Nordica Waffles. She chose their All-Day breakfast waffle, redolent with egg, bacon and cheddar cheese. Delish in her book! No one tried the new offerings — I was surprised by that.
Next came a must-have: pickles. Lucy always gets the big pickle on a stick, while the rest of us devour deep-fried pickles with ranch dressing.
For a few years we’ve been meaning to stop by the Hideaway Speakeasy at the Grandstand, and we finally made it there to try the Pomegranate Bubbly Mojito. YUM! I could have that any day! And the Boozy Berry and ‘Barb Trifle rocked as well.
Meanwhile, the younger set skipped over to Rainbow Ice Cream to get a Halo Cone and a Rainbow Cloud Roll:
As floofy and sweet and decadent and delightful as you would want them to be!
Outside the Gradtasnd we stopped by Juanita’s Fajitas to try the Cuban Fusian Fajita. Meh. It takes like a poor man’s Cubano, with a touch too much mustard.
After a not -on-the-list stop for Spam Curds (Why?)
We hit another must-have every year.
BIG. FAT. BACON.
They have upped their topping game, with sprinkles and potato chips and all sorts of naughty goodness. The kids stuck with chocolate sauce, while I hit the orange chipotle sauce. I could swim in that stuff.
Next we went up to the new north end, where we grabbed some adult beverages and tried the Tailspin at the Hangar: pulled pork, corn, coleslaw with cheese and BBQ sauce. It was good, but nothing to rave about.
The next stop was at Brim, for one of the most talked about items by all the food reviews: the Grilled Sota Sandwich. Basically, it’s a fancy, grilled PB and J. I loved the blueberry marmalade, and the Irish soda bread was great, but frankly: I hate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We bought two of these because we were sure we would devour them. In fact, we ended up throwing part of them away. I don’t know: maybe it felt too school lunchy for a group with 5 kids not ready for summer to end?
Also from Brim: the Joey Mary, an iced coffee slushie with a skewer of baked goods. I didn’t have any, but others declared it good.
Next up was Giggles, where the lines are always long because there is always something nummy to try. I LOVED the duck dummies! (we did have a minor moment when one of the teens didn’t realize she had been eating duck and had a bit f a freakout. Whoops). Super crispy, juicy and not gamey at all!
We washed it down with the only new beer I wanted to try: the Third Street Toasted Pumpkin Seed ale, which was tastily toasty. Plus, of course, we had to have the Excelsior S’Mores Beer!
Next stop: Green Mill. A buy one get one coupon prompted a quick ‘za fix, but we were really there for the garlic cheese bread with marinara. That stuff was good!
No fair visit is complete without Tom Thumb mini donuts. We had 5 bags.
One of my fave food items was up next. This one was controversial — everyone was afraid: the Cheesy Sriracha Funnel Cake bites from Funnel Cakes. These were awesome. Doughy, cheesy, with a more tangy than spicy sauce on the side. We agreed these would be awesome after the bar food!
And can’t skip the corn!
We made our way back to the coliseum when it started to rain and tried another one of the 10 ten new foods I wanted to experience: the deep-fried Dilly Dog at Swine & Spuds. It was ok. But not exciting enough. Hard to eat: the pickle kept slipping out of the batter. These would be better if it was sliced and deep-fried as bites. Easier to eat.
The rain continued, and we needed a break. So we slipped into a bar area for drinks (try teh Snagria beer sometime at the fair!), and Mike ran out for some Fresh French Froes. We always get these — they are so good! Mike brought back a vat of ketchup and our own bottle of malt vinegar (a philosophical discussion ensued on whether or not that was stealing, and how it compared to grabbing fist fulls of Taco Bell sauce to take home. See: we can think as well as eat!).
The rain stopped, so we headed over to Mancini’s, where I wanted to try the red wine gelato. That was great! Rich had been craving sausage, so we grabbed one on a stick, too. A little spicy for him, but the rest of us liked it!
Last year one of my absolute fac=vorites was the grilled peaches with goat cheese at the Produce Exchange, so Frankie, who missed the fair last year, wanted to give it a whirl. Sooo good. We also tried the new “lemonade apple.” Tasted like an apple. Not worth $3.
Two offerings at Hot Indian Foods at the International Market Place were on my list, but i knew not everyone was into Indian food. So I chose the Bhel Puri, typical Indian street food with grains and veggies and spices. Delicious and so different. Not true fair food (I mean, it was pretty healthy), but worth trying (I do kinda wish I had tried the Kentikka Fried Chicken sliders instead).
A stroll to the dairy building got us trying, for the first time, the famous ice cream there. Dayum. We will be back.
Then we found the BEST VENDOR AT THE FAIR!
We tried all three foods and omigosh. Fantastic. I don’t do eggs, but everyone who had that sandwich said it was arguably the best thing at the fair. The blueberry key lime pie and the lavender lemonade were perfect, too!
We hopped over to the food building, grabbing a Twisted Sister from Sausage Sister and Me (a must have every year):
Two more food building stops netted us a mini pecan tart from Sara’s Tipsy Pies (I never asked how this was, Erika!).
After that, we wanted to try the Polis Sausage Pierogi from iPierogi, bt they were out. So Mike opted for a cabbage roll. He said it tasted just like all the baggage rolls he ate growing up: warm, filling, and bland. He had a love-hate relationship with it. I say: pass!
Last vendor of the night: RC’s BBQ. Sooo good. We tried the Jammin’ Brisket Grilled Cheese, which is something I could eat every damn day.
But even better was the Hot Hen, a mess of potato chips, pulled pork, blue cheese fondue, jalapenos and more. Perfect game food!
And with that, it was all over but visiting the midway. I hope you enjoy the fair this year! Let me know if you agree with our decisions!
Another name from my adolescence died recently — the author, Judith Krantz. I think her first big hit was Princess Daisy, and it was chock full of all the sex and shopping that fascinated an almost teenager. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to read books like that, but I did. All the time. In secret.
When my mom would go to work, I would go into her room and read whatever book she had on the nightstand. I was oh so careful to put the bookmark back in the right place! I was often frustrated that she didn’t read as quickly as I did. I wanted a new book to read all the time!
My favorite Krantz book was Scruples, published in 1978. Publishing companies say it single-handedly create the excessive-lifestyle genre. Can you imagine that publishing company meeting when they got that manuscript? In my opinion, it not only spawned a new era of books, but it might also be the catalyst for tv shows like Dallas and Dynasty, which lead us to today’s Keeping up with The Kardashians.
Judith Krantz was but one of the illicit authors I coveted. Another fave was Jackie Collins, whose book Chances (1981) spawned a series of books that I followed with fervor. I wanted to be Lucky Santangelo when I grew up! An earlier book, The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon, also captured my attention, although not as naughty. It was thrilling in a way the books I had loved as a child did not.
Reading has been an integral part of my life since I was a child in the way that sports or the arts are for other kids, and it got me in trouble a lot. My first memory about reading was in kindergarten. My teacher, Mrs, Greenfield, gave us all a big reading book filled with stories to read over the course of the year. I remember one day I got in trouble because I wasn’t doing silent reading like the rest of the kids. I told her I’d already read it. She gently corrected me, saying that we were starting a new story today. I corrected her, saying that I had read all the stories. She didn’t believe me, of course, but I was emphatic. She quizzed me on a few stories, and quickly realized that I was being honest — and that she had to come up with a new curriculum for me!
I fell in love with so many books over the years — Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was one of my cherished possessions. I read every Little House on the Prairie book and even competed in a school speech contest entitled “My Favorite Character,” where I talked about introducing Laura Ingalls Wilder to today’s world. At night I would “sleep” with the door cracked open, furtively reading by the hallway light. Years later I would actually be grounded from reading, as my parents thought I spent to much time inside with my nose buried in a book.
My love affair with reading has never abated. I am busy in a book club of course and read several books each month — sometimes simultaneously. I must read in bed before I sleep, much to my husband’s frustration (he swears he can’t sleep with the light on, but his snoring tells me otherwise).
You won’t get me reading on an e-reader. Only real paper books for me. I have notebooks full of synopses all the books I have read over the past 10 years or so and have a long wait list at the library. I have an even longer to-read list tucked int the current notebook. I am super active on the website Goodreads (you can follow me there if you like!). Currently, I am reading two books: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillip Sendker for my book club, and Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household by Adrian Tinniswood for me.
When I finish an especially engrossing book, I often feel a sense of loss, as those characters are now gone forever. When I find a favorite author, I am compelled to read everything they have ever written. And if that author passes away, I mourn the books they will never write for me. Pat Conroy, famous for novels such as The Great Santini and Prince of Tides, and James Clavell, who penned the Sho-Gun series, are two whose deaths I felt intimately.
So now I have lost another. Granted, I haven’t read a Judith Krantz novel in decades, but her death has brought me back to such memories that I can’t help but feel a sense of loss. I think, in her honor, I will head to my library and check out a couple vintage beach reads — after, of course, I get through the 8 library books currently on my nightstand. And I don’t have to hide any of them!
The Great Minnesota Get Together is a tradition on a stick — not to be missed! It does frankly herald the end of summer, so I hesitate to chat about it already. However.
This week they announced the New State Fair Foods. And for me and my group, like many others, the fair and the food are synonymous.
And this year’s list of new foods? Some excite me, some revolt me, and some I don’t care one way or the other about. Full disclosure: I love spicy. I hate seafood. I like chocolate. I hate super sweet. So what sounds great to me may not turn on your tastes buds. But every year I plot out a gluttonous course, and our group endeavors to tackle as much food as possible, both the new and the old faves (with a few choice adult beverages thrown in). Here’s my take:
Cheesy Sriracha Funnel Cake Bites (Funnel Cakes): Bite-sized funnel cake pieces infused with a blend of Parmesan, Romano and mozzarella cheeses, deep-fried and finished with a sprinkle of sharp cheddar and chives, and served with homemade Sriracha aioli dipping sauce. Ranch or garlic butter dipping sauce is also available. I love this one because it is so unique (why didn’t anyone think of this before?). I usually don’t sickly-sweet funnel cakes after a bite or two — but give me crunchy, cheesy, spicy goodness and I am yours forever.
The Top 10 I am most excited to try:
Blueberry Key Lime Pie (Farmers Union Coffee Shop): Yes, a dessert is topping my list. But it’s a dessert focussing on tart, not sweet! Blueberry Key lime filling in a graham cracker crust, topped with whipped cream and fresh blueberries. This sounds divine!
Carolina Pit-Smoked Brisket Taco (Shaghai’d Henri’s): Beef brisket pit-smoked over hickory charcoal, shredded and topped with smoked Gouda cheese, a pickled kale crunch made with kale, Brussels sprouts, carrots, radicchio, napa, and red cabbage, with a drizzle of BBQ sauce; served in a flour tortilla with tortilla chips. So many veggies, you might consider it healthy (is that allowed at the Fair?)
The Hot Hen (R’C’s BBQ): BBQ chips topped with smoked pulled buffalo chicken, blue cheese fondue, pickled jalapeños, tomatoes, green onions and blue cheese crumbles. Girl, you had me at blue cheese fondue.
Fried Tacos On-A-Stick (Taco Cat): Two stuffed tacos – one filled with green chorizo and potatoes and one filled with a vegetarian black bean and corn mix – deep-fried, topped with crumbled cheese and a drizzle of guacamole salsa and served on-a-stick. I love tacos, especially with chorizo. This one sounds awesome but has the ability to be a letdown (why do midwesterner put potatoes in tacos?). Only available Aug. 28 – Sept. 2, so get there early!
Wingwalker Donut Flight (The Hangar): An assortment of hot, deep-fried cake donut holes and three syringes with DIY fillings – Bavarian cream, chocolate custard, and Minnesota lingonberry jam. Probably sweeter than I like, but the novelty makes me want to try it!
Jamm’in Brisket Grilled Cheese (RC’s BBQ): Slow-smoked brisket, red onion jam, cheddar, and pepper jack cheeses and RC’s hot BBQ sauce. This sounds delish! From the folks bringing us the Hot Hen (remember the blue cheese?). I anticipate long lines at this stand!
Deep-Fried Dilly Dog (Swine & Spuds): Pickle stuffed with bratwurst, dipped in batter and deep-fried. Makings of a classic. Not too wild, but I bet it’s good!
Lavender Lemonade (Farmers Union): Pink lemonade made with fresh lavender leaves. Bet a shot of vodka would be delish in this! I just hope it doesn’t taste like soap
Carnitas Taco Cone (San Felipe Tacos): Carnitas with a sesame-garlic ginger sauce, cabbage, lime and queso fresco, topped with green onion and sour cream and served in a deep-fried cone-shaped tortilla. Is it Mexican? Or is it Asian? My taste buds will be the judge of that.
Feta Bites (Dino’s Gyros): Deep-fried Greek pasta dough stuffed with feta cheese, cream cheese and Dino’s Greek seasoning. Served with a creamy olive tapenade. The more I think about it, the more I think I will like this.
If I have room still:
Turkish Pizza (Blue Moon Dine-In Theater): A cracker-thin flatbread, with spicy minced beef, onion, tomato, lettuce, cucumber salad, parsley, fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon and garlic sauce, then rolled or folded. I’m intrigued.
Nordic Waffles Al Pastor variety (Nordic Waffles): Mexican-style marinated pork, pineapple, onions, cilantro and salsa verde. Sounds better than their other offering, which I mention later. I’m not usually a fan of fruit in my meat dishes, but I’d try this.
Deep Fried Cookie Dough (Kora’s Cookie Dough): deep-fried chocolate chip cookie dough topped with powdered sugar and chocolate drizzle; also serving cookie dough on-a-stick in five flavors: classic chocolate chip, Grandma’s sugar cookie, monster cookie, Reese’s peanut butter, and Oreo fudge. Highly likely we will try — one bite.
Bada Bing Sandwich (The Sandwich Shop): Italian-inspired warm flatbread sandwich with ham, salami, melted mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, fresh basil and creamy balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Again: on an ordinary day I would be all over this. But the Fair is not an ordinary day.
Duck Drummies (Giggles Campfire Grill): Duck wings coated in a batter and seasoning blend, deep-fried and served with Giggles’ own tequila lime dipping sauce. Hmmm. I like duck if it’s done well. But this might be heavy-handed. I will try it though!
Tipsy Pecan Tart (Sara’s Tipsy Pies): Pecan pie infused with Dubliner Irish Whiskey and baked in a buttery shortbread shell. Gluten-free. I don’t like whiskey or pecan pie. So there ya go.
Peaches n’ Cream Nachos (Bridgeman’s Ice Cream): A bed of cinnamon sugar pita chips with Bridgeman’s Peaches n’ Cream ice cream, peach topping, a drizzle of honey and crushed pecans, finished with whipped cream, a cherry and a dusting of cinnamon sugar. I like peaches, and I love nachos, but I just know this will hurt my teeth.
Irish Whiskey Boneless Wings (O’Gara’s): white chicken chunks, breaded, deep-fried, tossed in Irish whiskey BBQ sauce and garnished with chopped scallions. I prefer my wings with bones. Also: if this was from a different vendor I’d be more excited (although I don’t think it’s particularly creative). I haven’t loved O’Gara’s offerings in the past few years.
Snow Cap Mini Waffle Sundae (Hamline Church Dining Hall): Mini waffle topped with a scoop of Izzy’s cream cheese ice cream, warm real maple syrup and a maraschino cherry. I don’t need a dessert for breakfast — or vice versa.
Stuffed Cabbage Roll (iPierogi): Cabbage leaves wrapped around seasoned ground pork and rice, prepared with tomato sauce and served with a dinner roll. Eh.
4 Grilled Sota Sandwich (Brim): Cinnamon nut butter and Minnesota blueberry marmalade served warm on Irish soda bread. I’ve never been a PBJ girl.
Six foods made my “nope. Not having it” list:
Nordic Waffles Pebbles & Bam Bam waffle wrap (Nordic Waffles): warm Reese’s chocolate peanut butter cups and fruity cereal by Nordic Waffles. Looks like the floor after a slumber party. No thanks. Way too sweet.
Breakfast Potato Skin (The Blue Barn): Deep-fried potato skin stuffed with scrambled eggs and peppers, topped with blackened beef chislic – a South Dakota bar food staple – and drizzled with bearnaise sauce.The Blue Barn is one of my favorite places — and the first place we hit when we arrive. If this didn’t have scrambled eggs I’d be all in. I’ll probably just get a beer and their chicken and waffle cone (soooo good).
Joey Mary(Brim): An iced coffee slushie topped with a skewer of gluten-free baked goods, including a chocolate bite, honey toffee crunch and almond cookie.When I saw the name, I assumed it would be a bloody mary with an Australian twist — like kangaroo bacon. THAT I would’ve tried. But I hate iced coffee, and I hate overly sweet stuff.
Lamb T-Bone Chops (Holy Land): All-natural, 100% grass-fed grilled lamb loins seasoned with Mama Fatima’s Holy Land Marinade. I’m sure it’s yummy if you like lamb. But I don’t.
Mini Donut Latte (Anchor Coffee House): A traditional latte with house-made mini donut flavoring, whole milk and espresso topped with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. Too sweet!
Shrimp & Grits Fritters (Funky Grits): Aged cheddar grits, gulf shrimp, onions and Creole seasoning, deep-fried and served with aioli dipping sauce. I don’t do shrimp.
We will also most certainly be making stops for something at Sausage Sisters, a piece or three of Big Fat Bacon, an order of deep fried pickles, and one (or two) servings of french fries. YUM!
I didn’t mean to write a third blog post in a row about fashion, but the death of an icon inspired me.
I am not a fashionista by any stretch (see my last post if you need confirmation), but I do love me some clothes. And with Gloria Vanderbilt’s death brought back a strong memory of mine.
My first pair of designer jeans were Gloria Vanderbilt. I vividly remember the day they were purchased: I was at Cartan’s with my mom (does Cartan’s even exist anymore? It was a store that carried things for kids and babies from birth until teen, from cribs to clothes.) I somehow convinced her that I should have the pricey jeans, and I was in awe of the GV triangle logo stamped on my butt.
I agonized on when to wear them. I was torn on wearing them right away or waiting. My “maturity” won out: I chose to wait until Friday. That way, my jeans would be a lasting memory for whoever thought of me over the weekend (is there anything more self-centered than a young teenage girl?).
In hindsight (sorry), no one was looking at my butt. But I treasured the thought that they might. I was realizing the power of fashion, not just to influence others, but, more importantly, to influence the way I felt about myself. As I have matured, I have learned to let that feeling guide my shopping: how do I feel in this outfit? I remember about 10 years ago taking girlfriends with me to buy a gala gown. I ended up getting the dress they liked on me rather than the one that made me feel glamorous and strong and sexy. I still think of that dress as a “one that got away.” When I see that other one in the closet I feel conflicted. I am sure I won’t wear it again.
Gloria Vanderbilt was, of course, way more than a name on a butt. A few years back I read a terrific book about her, written by her son, Anderson Cooper (for my review, go to https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26072609-the-rainbow-comes-and-goes). I had heard the phrase poor little rich girl but really didn’t understand it until I read this book. I’d recommend it — it’s a glimpse behind the heavy oak doors of the uber-rich and how money certainly does not guarantee happiness.
But those jeans, and the way they made me feel? That was money well spent on something that made me feel happy — grown up, special, middle-school sexy (as sexy as a flat as a board 12-year-old can feel with braces and badly feathered hair). I like to think that Gloria Vanderbilt, who experienced such dramatic highs and lows over her lifetime, ended up on a high. She was having a renaissance, valued as a talented painter and quite fun to follow on Instagram. And, as a mom, probably quite happy to be known as “Anderson Mom.”
I’ll always remember her as the gal who got me started on the dark and twisted path to fashion.
I lied: here’s another fashion post of sorts.
But this one is short and sweet — like me (stop choking on your cocktail, those who know me best).
As you may know, I am passionately involved in one of the biggest rescue organizations in the Midwest, Secondhand Hounds (https://secondhandhounds.org/). Besides fostering, working events and other activities, I am in charge of our Puppy Party division. A while back, Facebook shopper-stalked me and suggested I might like checking out a pair of shoes. I did. I liked them. I bought them.
I wear them to every puppy party, and get so many compliments!
Then I saw these online:
Fun and practical! I love when it is wet enough to pull them off with style (which was a lot this spring!).
Then a friend shared a link with me for more dog shoes. That led to another link. And another…
Now I have 5 pairs of “dog shoes.”
I have a problem.
Last year I surprised myself by getting my ears double pierced. Consequently, I have been shopping for itty bitty earrings. Naturally, that led to these:
I refuse to catalog all the t-shirts, hoodies, tank tops, sweat pants and sweatshirts I have that are somehow dog-related.
I know I am not the only one with a theme-skewed wardrobe. What’s lurking in your closet?