Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s (Fashion) Award Season Again!

It’s Awards Season, which means I will be obsessively doing two things: watching movies and posting about fashion. Today we cover the show that makes me think of boobs: the Golden Globes (really: what were they thinking when they picked that name?).

Before I start sharing pictures and thoughts and snarky comments and envious gushings, I want to remark on something I heard Howard Stern say on his show the other day. Mind you: I literally only heard a couple of sentences, so this is TOTALLy without context. Maybe he said more afterward, but I was rushing between appointments and I only heard this bit, so I can only comment on this.

He said that with very, very few exceptions, the women looked awful at the GGs. He said their stylists were doing them such a disservice by not flattering their bodies. He specifically mentioned that the bodies were hidden in material, that the ones that showed cleavage smashed their breasts in an unflattering way, and that they should have their hair loose, not pulled back, because so many have such gorgeous hair.

Mr stern, I know your job is to be a shock jock. Frankly, until I started listening to you last year, I and the impression that you were a wretched sexist pig. I have since learned to enjoy your show, even if I do skip over certain parts (your interviews are s=awesome — your sidekicks are not my thing). I admire your animal advocacy and your obvious devotion to your wife. But about those comments:

Yeah, lots of the outfits were weird. I agree, and I will call folks on it. And many will disagree with my opinions, which is fine, because they are my opinions, and I am as entitled to them as you are. But I think you miss the point on the red carpet fashion.

The women re not necessarily dressing for you, or for other men. In my heart of hearts, I hope they are dressing for themselves. But I know they are dressing for other women. We do that. It’s why we spend so much time at Sephora when our men say they prefer us without makeup.

Some of the women are just trying to get press. Some are trying to project an image they have or one they want. Their appearances on these shows are more about business and brand than anything else. I will comment on people in this blog I have ever heard of, and that means they have succeeded. In some cases, I googled them, and learned about a project they were a part of, and maybe added it to my watch list.

That means their weird, boob crushing, severe hairstyle worked.

Just like your shock jock persona works for you.

Thanks, Mr. Stern, for letting me vent. Now: on with the fashion show.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Imma start with this one because it is gold. There ya go. I actually love this, and it ALMOST made my top 3. It’s elegant, but modern at the same time.

I am a big fan of color on the runway, and this year we got splashes all over the place!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And there was a whole flock of ladies in red — all conducting trains:

On the other end of the spectrum were the ladies who went for classic black and white.

Greta Gerwig and Cynthia Erivo had the same idea: a black column dress with white framing the neck and face. Ervio’s was way better IMO. Gerwig’s severe horizontal neckline, with her tightly pulled back hair, only emphasized her broad shoulders. That may have been what she wanted, but I didn’t like it. Ervio’s, with the glittery movement and nipped waist, made the look more exciting and flattering.

 

Ruffles and bows and wannabe lingerie looks were all over the place as usual. We just can’t get away from the Little House on the Prairie influence. Pity (at least the flesh-colored gowns were absent from the lineup).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As for the other ruffly bits…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the ladies who wore pants!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Let’s turn to the menfolk on the carpet! Men’s fashions are fantastically, fabulously pushing the envelope lately, and I am here for it! From the classic:

To the “in a class by himself”:

Billy Porter

And everywhere in between!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The couples:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before we move on to my faves and least faves, I want to mention two women who were on both lists depending on who was voting, If nothing else, they were very haute couture. Fashion is an art, after all!

My least favorite looks were some people’s favorites (and vice versa).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The absolute worst was Jennifer Lopez. WTAF??? I included a picture of her from another gala that week, that she should have worn instead.

JLo

Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala, Arrivals, Convention Center, Palm Springs, USA - 02 Jan 2020

Some looks were SO CLOSE. They could have been amazing, but something felt lacking. Is it better to be safe, or to dare? (always dare)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

And my three favorite looks of the Golden Globes were…

Zoe Kravitz

Zoe Kravitz: this is how you mix quirky, formal, creative and classy!

Renee Zellweger

Renee Zellwegger: the color slays, the fit is wonderful, the style is cool

Zoey Deutch

Zoey Deutch: I would wear this out of all the looks. I LOVED IT!!!

 

As a parting gift, here is a slideshow of some of the best and worst looks from the Globes after-parties.  You guess which ones I liked and which ones, well, not so much.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

New Year, Old Habits

Before I lay out this year’s resolutions, let me see how I did on last years!

  1. Lose weight: I did great for a while, but now I am heavier than I was this time last year. Been back on Weight Watchers for 2 days now. Wish me luck. It worked before.
  2. Blog more regularly. Well, we know I didn’t do that, dammit.
  3. I did not take more bubble baths.
  4. I did not clean out the crap under the deck.
  5. I do think I was in more pictures, but not enough. I really suck at selfies, and no one in my family likes picture taking. We even asked friends to take our family pic at Christmas and failed to get it done. Ugh.
  6. I DID attend an event at First Avenue if not a concert. I’m gonna call this one a win!
  7. I used some of the gift cards we collected from auctions, but not all.
  8. I partially cleaned out the weird plastic junk bin.
  9. I did NOT tackle the scary mass of electrical cables.
  10. I did fight less with Singer Girl.
  11. I did NOT frame and hang the old family photos.

So. This year:

See above. Do that.

And:

  1. Print, frame and hang vacation pictures on our dining room wall.
  2. Purge and organize the attic (this one is tough, as I have to do it in either spring or fall so I don’t melt or freeze).
  3. Stop talking to HWSNBN through the dog.
  4. Purge and organize under the basement stairs.
  5. Take a trip with my mom.
  6. Create an address label database for my Christmas cards.

I think what I need to do is check in monthly on this, to keep myself accountable. I now have about 15 things on my list. That’s more than one per month.

Wish me luck.

 

Wait a Minute Mr. Postman!

Do you still write Christmas cards?

I do.

I love receiving them, of course, but I also find it fun to send them. I’m not sure why.

It can be a lot of work — typically I send out about 100 cards, and it’s ever so simple as buying a boxed set at the store. I mean, I’ve done that before, but I like to be creative.

For years my kids drew our Christmas cards, which was so much fun. Then they got too old (or too cool) for that, and we went to the photo card. I also do a letter some years. I try to keep it balanced, so it’s not too braggy or too whiny.

No letter this year, but I was stoked because I actually had a picture of the four of us. That doesn’t happen often, what with the kids living in different states. So I had fun designing a card this year — totally not a typical holiday card, but that’s ok. We’re not typical people.

I was frustrated with myself, however, because another year has passed without me putting our addresses into a label database. So I steamed a bit as I grabbed the old address book and starting hand-writing all 100 addresses.

But then I started to smile.

And I think I figured out why I like to do the cards.

As I wrote each person’s name down, I spent a minute or so reflecting on them. How did I know them? Have I seen them this year? What is it about them that makes me want to keep them in my postal life?

Every year I inevitably stop sending a card to someone or add new people. Sometimes I have to update an address, or, sadly, cross a name out of my book because we lost a person.

But no matter what, I realized that this tedious process I was dreading was actually pretty cool.

Maybe I’ll forget to make those labels again this year…

Thanks A Lot

(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 6: that Singer Girl discovered this fascinating big school in such a cute little town! @uofmichigan #goblue #college #annarbor #thankfulproject @University of Michigan

75242164_10220340775339769_3887356834977153024_o

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) 74365739_10220359545409009_362196215569317888_n

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 73224770_10220370101952916_7802760665390645248_o

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 74915057_10220383104917982_5047409986750119936_o

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) 318417_2564603604658_1340499554_n

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! 75486070_10220434757809272_3258653513529425920_o

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! 74188269_10220449173729661_555894013643718656_n

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

76607540_10220493638201245_5938077545562898432_n

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. 75081232_10220484626055947_3101722198876880896_n

 

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 23: new friends who enjoy doing fun things! @mn_arb #lights #holiday #doubledatenight #tistheseason @ Minnesota Landscape Arboretum 76911049_10220512657756722_2248418798249967616_o

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!

Merry Thanksgivmas!

IMG-0303

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!

A Puppy is Much More than a Sandwich

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.

img_9198

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.

_private_var_mobile_Containers_Data_Application_72BC76B7-CF4E-4C33-8512-2467A91C1FD2_tmp_D0C863CE-776B-4D17-BF60-049DA80F7CFE_Image

(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.

img_8837

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.

58843183762__e7b6bf2e-b8ee-41f9-86f9-0ee439166541

(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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

img_8660

 

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.

img_9300

They met friends!

img_9499

And they went places!

Soon it was time to start talking adoption!

Mike was the first to find his people.

img_9464

His new name is Winston, and he is being spoiled quite nicely, thank you!

Then Big Kahuna moved on and was renamed, Barney.

img_9800

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.

img_0144

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!

img_0204

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That link for donation again is https://www.givemn.org/organization/Secondhand-Hounds

 

THANK YOU!

No Theme? No Problem!

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!

IMG_1057IMG_1053IMG_1054

This seemed to be the season of the aliens!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Superheroes and villains showed up:

IMG_1061IMG_1064

Some were silly, some were scary, some couples went as one of each!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!)

IMG_1074IMG_1066

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

IMG_1056

(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!)

A Journey of a Thousand Backwards Steps

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.

19,000 steps — and About That Many Calories

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: IMG_2815

 

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:

IMG_8929

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:

IMG_0843

 

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.

IMG_8954

After a not -on-the-list stop for Spam Curds (Why?) IMG_8955

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. IMG_8958

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?

IMG_8959

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.

IMG_8960

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!

IMG_8961

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!

IMG_8962

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.

IMG_8965

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!

IMG_8966

And can’t skip the corn!

IMG_8967

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.

IMG_8971

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!).

IMG_8973

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).

IMG_8981

A stroll to the dairy building got us trying, for the first time, the famous ice cream there. Dayum. We will be back.

IMG_8983

Then we found the BEST VENDOR AT THE FAIR!

IMG_9005IMG_9001IMG_9003IMG_9004

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):

IMG_9006

Two more food building stops netted us a mini pecan tart from Sara’s Tipsy Pies (I never asked how this was, Erika!).

IMG_9008

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!

IMG_9009

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.

IMG_9010

But even better was the Hot Hen, a mess of potato chips, pulled pork, blue cheese fondue, jalapenos and more. Perfect game food!

IMG_9011

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!

IMG-9045

Every Page I Turn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: