Sicily is Not Italy…
If you read my last post, you’ll know that we have some new challenges in our lives. But I’ll be damned if we curl up in a ball and hide from the world.
So, despite HWSNBN’s ALS diagnosis, we set out last month on a long-planned trip to visit Sailor Boy in Italy.
Wait, you say: isn’t Sicily a part of Italy? Well, yes, politically speaking. And yes, they speak Italian and have phenomenal food and fashion sense, and horrific driving. But we learned quickly that when you are a land that has been around for 10,000 years, it takes more than a measly 162 years to make you really a new identity.
But more on the history lesson later. First, we need to get to Europe.
Months ago, before I knew we would have the ALS to consider, I decided to utilize a travel agent for the first time to get this trip planned. Enter the amazing Amanda from Pique Travel. She had everything planned: hotels, cars, tours and guides, even wheelchairs at every step of the way. We used the app Unmapped to keep tabs of all reservations and tickets, and of course utilized What’sApp to communicate with her and our European contacts.
ALS was our unofficial travel partner all the way through, and he made us nervous. He was always there in the back of our minds, slowing us down, causing anxiety as we worried about how he would try to complicate and crash the party. Thankfully, contrary to popular belief, the world is full of amazing, humans willing to go out of the way to smooth things out for us.
The minute we pulled up at MSP airport (driven by the amazing Abdulla, referred to us by friends Christie and Jim. Let me know if you need his number for your driving needs!), a wonderful airport worker jumped into action. Seeing me wrangling multiple suitcases and Rich trudging along with his walker, he declared: “You need a wheelchair!” We didn’t even get inside to ask at the Delta desk for the one reserved for us. The MSP staff took charge, chauffeuring Rich and helping me get everything to the front of the check in line. (FYI: being physically challenged DOES have its perks: we went to the front of every line in every airport in all three countries, from check in to security to boarding to customs. Nice!). After we were checked in, we were escorted through security (thank you Clear — always worth the subscription fee IMO), then had time to enjoy the PGA Lounge (courtesy of Priority Pass, a great perk we got with the Chase card — thanks for the tip, Thrifty Traveler!). We asked our escort what to do when it was time to head tot eh gate, and she assured me someone would meet us at the lounge, and they did. Our escort was going off duty, but came with a coworker to make sure we were cared for correctly. Wow: mad props.
The flight worried us: HWSNBN can’t move easily or quickly anymore. When he needed to get up to stretch or use the restroom, I walked in front of him, facing him, holding his hands to keep him safe. It felt precarious, and probably disruptive to some (it’s hard to walk steadily on a plane during the best of circumstances), but everyone resected our odd journey. Flight attendants cleared the aisles for us, and constantly asked how they could help. They also, before I could even bring it up, let me know that they had confirmed that a wheelchair would be waiting for us at the gate.
Classy, professional, caring. Thank you, Delta!
We arrived in Amsterdam unscathed, but tired. Normally I schedule flights to Europe for late in the evening, but this one was an afternoon flight. There aren’t a ton of flights daily to Catania, and we were also coordinating with Singer Girl, who was flying n from Detroit. Our flight landed a couple hours before hers, and we went to the transfer station to make sure we were all set for the next flight. The lovely woman at the KLM desk realized our luggage was not checked all the way through, so quickly fixed that — and told us to come straight to her desk when our daughter arrived so she could personally make sure hers was set as well. When we di that, the woman immediately recognized me and said “Catania!” I mean, how many travelers had she helped in the past two hours, but she still remembered us and our destination. I know I am pretty memorable, but wow: again we were impressed.
The flight was also uneventful, and we were treated with views of Mount Etna, quietly exhaling her volcanic breath as we approached.
Once again, a wheelchair was waiting for us. Unfortunately, our luggage was not. Somehow all the good efforts of the KLM transfer desk agent were in vain. I felt a bit like Etna as I dealt with the situation as best I could: breathing deeply to let off steam so I didn’t blow my top. I know HWSNBN was frustrated that he couldn’t really help. Singer Girl went out to greet our driver, Stefano, and fill him in on the delay. We had no idea where our nags were or when they would arrive, given the afore-mentioned lack of Catania flights. But we finalized the paperwork, loaded ourselves into the van, and headed, finally, to the hotel.
Sailor Boy was meeting us for dinner, and bringing along his darling Sicilian girlfriend who we had of course not yet met. I informed him of the AWOL luggage, and he assured me our hotel was in a prime shopping district. Once HWSNBN was safely ensconced and napping at the hotel, Singer Girl and I ventured out to get supplies for the next two days. I typically don’t visit any stores or restaurants on vacation that I can visit at home, but desperate times call for desperate measure, and there were an H & M and a Sephora on the same block, so off we went. We purchased some basics for all 3 of us, and headed back to quickly do what we could to tidy up before dinner.
We were staying at the Hotel Una Palace in the heart of historic Catania.
We had a small suite: spacious bedroom, bathroom, large walk through closet and small sitting area with couch. It was just the right size for spreading out and wheeling about a walker and wheelchair. The hotel had an elevator, which theoretically made it accessible for those with mobility issues, but man those European shower/tub combos are a bear when someone is unsteady on their feet and can’t easily bend their legs! But we managed!
We supposedly had reservations at the stunning rooftop restaurant, Etnea. However, when Sailor Boy and the Lovely Lisa checked in for us, the restaurant couldn’t find our reservation. Exasperated, I sent them Sailor Boy the confirmation email. He texted me shortly afterwards.
“HAHAHA. Mom. That’s in Turin. I don’t think we can make that reservation, it’s a good 3 hour flight.”
They were able to fit us in — although an hour later than we planned, because Sicilian restaurants rarely open for dinner before 8pm. So we made do with snacks and the best damn tasting cocktail I have ever freaking had. Dinner was great. We all laughed, and were so happy to finally be together. Lovely Lisa was as charming as Sailor Boy is goofy. She was nervous meeting us, which is silly, but I understood. She hit it off (I think!) with all of us.
After dinner, it was more than time for bed. HWSNBN and I crashed at the hotel, while Singer Girl was staying at her brother’s apartment. We said goodnight, eager to see each other again in the morning to begin our Sicilian experience in earnest (and in newly purchased clothing…but I digress…).
HOtels in Europe do the free breakfast thing waaaay better in the states. I popped down in the AM and brought up a plate for HWSNBN. Here’s a really underwhelming pic of the buffet, which had cakes, pastries, meats, cheeses, fruits, veg and more.
After breakfast, we met Mario, who was to be our guide (and friend) for the next few days. We were doing a walking tour of Catania. We met the kids at a café, where Mario plied them with espresso and arancini, the amazing fried rice balls native to the area, as they had not been privy to the luxurious hotel fare. Fortified, we set off.
So about that history lesson! Sicily has been inhabited for 10,000 years, and, during that time, has been settled or ruled by many dynasties, including the Greeks, Romans and Bourbons. All over you see the influence of these cultures and all the others around the Mediterranean. The Turks were in charge for awhile, and during the Muslim rule of the 9th through 11th centuries, Catania became known as the city of the elephant. Why? There is a black lava stone elephant fountain (topped with an Egyptian obelisk) in the main square. U Liotru, as it is called, is the city’s symbol. Was there an elephant on the island? Maybe!
The island’s buildings and layout are absolutely colored by not only the cultural diversity, but by the geological history. Catania is known as the black city, as the oldest roads and buildings are made from lava stone (thanks, Etna). But thanks to massive earthquakes and WWII, the cities are varied, making them a fascinating architectural study (many buildings were constructed not only on top of old foundations, but from the ruins of the ones that preceded them).
Italians take their Christian holidays pretty seriously. Sicily is famous for its creches, or manger scenes. This one inside Sant ‘Agatha of Sicily, who was born in Catania, was stunning — and about 10 feet long!
There are certain things I always take pictures of on holiday: markets, doorways and side streets. This trip was no different. Mario led us to a stunning food market, where we feasted with all our senses.
Oh: and I also have a thing for funky vehicles…
The fod market was an appetizer course: we had local pistachios and nut brittles, and Sailor Boy had oysters right there on the street.
Then Mario directed us down this charming street…
…then directed us to wait in front of a shop. Singer Girl took the opportunity to make a local feline friend…
…and Mario worked his magic. As we watched, a flurry of people swarmed out of the shop, and set up little tables and chairs for us. They set the tables, and invited us to sit. nest thing we knew we were eating cheeses and meats, hand picked by Mario, and drinking wine, as we watched the world go by. One of my favorite trip moment, as a humble alleyway became OUR personal restaurant.
Then we wandered further through Catania, back through the square and past our hotel. The main street was bustling with shoppers. We looked in windows, but we were so happy to be outside in the sunshine we didn’t want to stop. A running joke began that day: the Sicilians thought we were crazy. While we reveled in temps in the 60s, they bundled up in scarves, coats and gloves. At one point, someone yelled to a tank-top clad Singer Girl “where are you from?!” We enjoyed stressing Mario out by our lack of winter garb!
Our last stop on the tour was at Savia, where Mario treated us to more arancini and pastries — and wine, of course. Mario had “American prosecco”: Coca Cola.
We said goodbye to Mario for the day, the kids headed back to Sailor Boy’s abode, and HWSNBN and I went to the hotel to nap — and see if our luggage had arrived. No such luck. I logged into the website provided me by the Catania airport, but it was all in Italian. I decided to go to Twitter to get answers. I described our plight, mentioning my husband’s medical condition and the fat tat we were in town visiting our military-serving son. KLM responded less than 4 minutes later! Within 30 minutes we learned our luggage had boarded a flight to Rome the previous day by mistake, and would be arriving at our hotel within a few hours! Such great news — and great customer service!
When it arrived, I unpacked and we got to shower and do all the things you take for granted when you have your luggage, lol. We decided to walk to the restaurant for dinner, rather than make the kids try and pick us up (it was tough to do so, as no private cars were allowed on the street front of the hotel). It was drizzly, so my hair was a mess by the time we got there, but it was a riot, navigating cobble stone streets in a wheelchair. I burned off all the days treats for sure, and we joked that it is not a vacation until HWSNBN and I get lost on a “Bataan death march,” as my family likes to call my happy meanderings.
That night we ate at one of Sailor Boy’s favorite Michelin star restaurants, Km0.
We had a dreadful time…
Singer Girl decided to crash on our couch that night, as Sailor Boy and Lisa had plans with her friends, and he wasn’t going on the tour with us the next morning (she also wanted to check out the hotel breakfast buffet!). We said our goodbyes, and went back to crash, and dream about what visual and gustatorial delights awaited us in the morning!
Catching Up Is Bringing Me Down
It has been so long since I have written — here, anyway. More on that in a minute.
This is a quickie, to just touch base and let you know I’m not gone. But 2021 was kind of a shitshow for me, and my new normal is kind of stinky as well.
In June, my dad died. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s for more than a decade, so it was time. The end wasn’t pretty (I’ll never forget the sound of the “death rattle” as the hospice nurse called it). But it’s over. He is no longer disintegrating piece by piece, so we no longer have the internal war of wishing him peace, but not wanting him gone. I have a tribute post in the works, and will hopefully get to that next month.
Last spring, HWSNBN (my husband who abhors social media) finally decided to see someone about some hip pain he was experiencing. The chiropractor helped for awhile. Then he saw an orthopedist, who suspected an arthritic hip from all his years of long distance running. PT was prescribed, but it got worse. During the Boston trip (read that post here), he calmly shared with me that he couldn’t feel his right leg. It “woke up”, but we were shaken.’
He tried a steroidal injection, and that helped for a bit. We managed a Vegas trip in July, and had a ball. But shortly after we returned, the pain was back, and worse. He continued to be unable to run, which was just killing him. The orthopedist was alarmed, and decided it was tie to see a neurologist.
What followed were rounds of tests — blood work, MRIs, EMGs, manual assessments and more. And then they were repeated. On October 1st, we learned that after excluding everything else, they determined he has ALS.
So yeah. Shit.
Since then we have been busy coming to terms with what that means, now and in the future. What future? Who knows. Could be years. Could be, well, not. So far his breathing, speech nd swallowing remain unaffected, an for that we are grateful. But in the just over 3 months since he was diagnosed he has gone from walking painfully to using a walker and now starting to rely on a wheelchair. His right leg is almost useless, and his left isn’t very cooperative either. His hands and arms are weaker, but we don’t know if that’s the disease or the result of overuse from gripping the walker.
Date nights are gone, replaced by home stretching sessions and the never-ending struggle to keep him comfortable. To that end, a lift-assist recliner, swivel tv tray with handle and sleep number adjustable bed are all entering the home in the next week.
Friends, family and coworkers have been phenomenally supportive. “How can I help?” is the phrase I hear mot these days (well, maybe “Donni can I get some help?” is uttered more frequently). From putting air in my tires to bringing meals, to moving things into the attic and running errands, people are amazing. Truly.
I mentioned earlier that I have been writing, just not here. We have a Caring Bridge site that we sue t keep folks updated (check it out here). It’s cathartic for me as well — although, as Singer Girl reminded me, it’s not a therapy session. So I tend to hold back on the feelings there. I will likely be less inhibited here.
But not every future blog post will be about being a CALS to my PALS (caretaker of one with ALS, and person with ALS. All the cool, exhausted people use acronyms). I hope to post tomorrow about our fabulous trip to Sicily to spend Christmas with Sailor Boy. Lots of photos, as usual, so I’ll get at least 3 blog posts about that.
Thanks for listening. I know it’s a downer, but life isn’t all vacations and fashion. Nowadays, I’m thrilled with any me time and clean sweats (is it wrong that I found my filling at the dentist this week a relaxing respite of me time?).
Go Westie, Young Man!
We got our latest foster on the last day of April. Ebby is not my typical foster: she’s a senior, and a small dog, and not very fluffy. I’ve had several surprised folks ask why I chose her, since she is clearly not my type. TBH I’m not 100% sure — maybe it was because she was so darling, and I’d never had a foster like her, and I figured she’d be super popular so she’d be adopted quickly. While all the rest proved to be true, that last little bit? Not so much.
Ebby is an owner surrender West Highland Terrier, who came to us from a Reservation in South Dakota when her owners had to move to a long term care facility. She was clearly well loved, and comfortable around everyone she met But she seemed to have been neglected a bit in the end, which isn’t entirely uncommon in situations like this. We assumed that, as a senior dog, she’d need a dental cleaning, but once I got her home we realized there were more layers to this stinking cute onion.
I could tell from a glance that her ears were infected and gross, and her nails were in dire need of a trim before they officially reached talon status. It also was rapidly apparent that she was deaf. Deaf dogs can be a blessing, and Ebby’s lack of hearing sure makes it easier to sneak around her and not interrupt her impressive sleeping habits (Miss Ebby Debby commonly sleeps 10-14 hours a night, and is a highly skilled napper as well.)
But when she wakes up and can’t find me, she gets a little concerned, and I have to chase her down the hall and tap her on the shoulder, or wave my arms frantically to get her attention. Mere inconveniences — there are way bigger struggles with some animals, including my own Stevie Nicks, who feels the need to bark at everyone until they are out of sight. But I digress.
When the Ebster went to her vet appointment they confirmed the hearing and teeth issues, and also revealed that — surprise! She wasn’t spayed after all. We added that surgery to the list. We also discovered several reproductive tumors (mammary and perineal), most likely the result of never being spayed. So those would have to come out. But before we could address all that, we needed to address the laundry list of minor ailments: double ear infections, skin infection, eye infections, etc.
Secondhand Hounds usually adds new dogs to the website on Wednesdays. and Ebby’s vet appointment was Monday. I forgot to notify the powers that Ebby was a medical case, and she was added to the website! Whoops…I didn’t even know until I opened my emails and saw a plethora of applications! I quickly notified my Foster Coordinator and the Adoption Coordinator and we pulled her from the site, then started responding to apps: “Hi, you know that cute dog you applied to adopt Well, she’s not adoptable. Yet.”
Westies are like crack to some people. I never understood it, but I do know. While she is not my “style” of dog, Ebby is cute and loyal and funny. She wants nothing more than to be near me, preferably cradled in my arms like a baby. Her little woo-woo voice is a hoot, even if I don’t always know what she wants. And when she starts moving, scampering is the only way to describe it!
So no it was no surprise that all that the three applicants were okay with the mistake. I promised to keep them apprised of what was happening, and invited them to meet her in the mean time. Two said yes (the other decided to wait and see what happened in her surgeries). The two that came, both retired couples, fell in love.
The first couple had recently lost a female Westie and was looking for a companion for Frank, their sad black Scottie dog. The wife wept when she saw Ebby! Ebby and Frank got along swimmingly, once Ebby confirmed that she would be the leader. The next couple didn’t have any other dogs, having lost their one and only. They came with family in tow, and all thought it was a good match. They also thought Ebby would be a great model for all the dog clothes the wife liked to make!
So I told them I’d keep them posted, but that nothing could proceed until after surgery.
While waiting for her surgery, Ebby got to know Stevie Nicks, even if she was a little pissy with her in teh beginning. I think Stevie’s big size freaked her out, especially when Ebby and I were cozied on the couch and suddenly this giant muppet would jump up next to her. To a deaf dog, that had to be disconcerting.
Ebby took field trips with us, met lots of poeple, and had playdates and overnights with other fosters.
She visited my dad at his memory care facility, and discovered that she loves being out in the yard, soaking up the sun.
On June 7, Ebby went under the knife. The vet wasn’t sure if they’d get everything done, or have to split it into two procedures. Thankfully, after about a 3 hour surgery, Miss Ebby emerged minus 6 teeth, several tumors, and a uterus. She was white girl wasted for the rest of the day, even if she slept poorly that night. Getting her to eat enough to take her pain meds was a challenge. Icing her incisions helped, but only so much.
She didn’t sleep well that night, or the next (so neither did I). Sleeping in a cone is tough, and she paced a lot, which meant banging into things. We tried kenneling her, but she cried. The second night, she had had diarrhea, which worried me. The vet had warned that the surgery to remove the perineal surgery was invasive, and could result in some fecal incontinence. Now we had some drippy issues. After taking her outside, and coming to verbal blows with HWSNBN (he doesn’t do well when a dog interferes with his sleep), I went online and started ordering doggie obesies on Amazon.
The next day I discovered the key to sleep: at night, Ebby wore a onesie and a diaper, but no cone. She left everything alone, and we had no mess to clean up. We were doing frequent butt baths (can’t have poopy stitches ) — sometimes 5 a day. But gradually things started to heal and I got rid of the diaper. But she still sleeps in a onesie — at least until the stitches come out.
I emailed all potential adopters after the surgery, letting them know she had two weeks of recovery minimum before she could go home, and that we needed to wait on test results. A few days later I warned them about the fecal incontinence. The adopter who hadn’t met her never responded. The one with Frank the terrier decided they couldn’t handle that, and gracefully bowed out. The last one? The dog fashion designers Offered to mail me the diapers left over from their last dog, who had been incontinent — and asked me to measure Ebby for some new outfits.
So now Ebby has a person!
The next step was waiting on test results, which we received a few days ago. The perineal tumor, and the largest mammary tumor, do show cancer. What to do? Wait and see if the cancer would progress, or do further, more invasive surgery. That surgery is beyond the scope of our crack vet team, so we would need a specialist. If we end up doing it, it’ll be another month before she can go home. What to do?
The vet said she wanted to discuss it with the adopters, so they have been playing phone tag. I have suggested a “foster to adopt situation, where the adopters take her home, but bring her back to us for any treatment. and the adoption is finalized when the treatments end. So that’s where we stand right now. Ebby gets her stitches out tomorrow, and hopefully her mama and the vet can chat. I had the adopter fil out the foster paperwork, and I will be doing a virtual home visit this weekend. The adopters are super busy with long-delayed family reunions, a funeral, and moving her mother into a care facility, and then them into her home. All of this is taking pace in North and South Dakotas, where they and their family live. Many adopters would just bow out, or ask me to hold onto her for awhile. But these folks are willing to squeeze in a multi-hour drive to and from the Cities to get her as soon as the paperwork is done.
I love them.
I do hope Ebby gets to go early next week, as she is super attached to me and, while it has its charms for me, it’s tough on the rest of the folks in our home when I leave (she woo-woos when I am gone). She has spent time at other homes, and has settled pretty quickly with them, but that was before the surgery.
Since the surgery, besides becoming my white shadow (remember that TV show?), she has become perkier. That could be because she is eating and sleeping even better than before (I didn’t think she could ever sleep more, but she does). I think she didn’t eat much before because her teeth hurt so much, the poor baby. She has become adventurous, wandering down the driveway when she wants to go for a walk, or sniffing her way into our off-limits forested backyard. She never complains when I catch her; I just scoop her up and cradle her like a baby. Maybe she does it just to get the extra lovies? Hmmm…
Anyway: I hope I can soon share pics of Ebby with her new family. We will probably take another little foster break after this, as I need to work in the yard and exercise, and I am really bad at both when I have a foster. Plus we have a busy few months coming up with lots of fun stuff I can’t wait to share with you all!
In the meantime, I will love on Ebby, and be grateful for the chance to help her find a better forever!
Showered in Spring Dates
April was pretty grey (gray?) in Minnesota, and May was marginally better, but we welcomed spring with as many outdoor dates as possible!
I like when we can involve animals with date nights. Our first April date night had us exploring an Alpaca farm in Prior Lake called Whispering Oaks. After chatting with the owner and watching several stunning long-lashed friends in their paddock, we got to take an Alpaca for a walk (unsupervised, no less, lol). Also on the farm are chickens and donkeys and all sorts of other furry friends.
HWSNBN knows I have a thing for history — especially in the form of cemeteries (don’t judge). He found an online self-guided tour of the old Oak Hill Cemetery in Excelsior. I have always wanted to visit it, but had just driven past on my way hither and yon for the past 20 years or so. Glad to have a solid reason too get out of the car!
The tour told us about many prominent citizens and founding families buried there. I was dismayed at the awful conditions of many of the graves (a fact that was further highlighted by the contrast with the well-kept historic cemetery we visited in Boston a few weeks later. More on that in another post). Nonetheless, it is worth a walk around, especially if you are into that sort of thing, like I am.
You may have seen the footage awhile back of a drone flying around a vintage bowling alley? Well, that was at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis, and that was the site of a particularly fun date night. Thanks to social distancing rules, we got a set of lanes and ball return all to ourselves, with a waiter bringing yummy drinks and food.
I worried about my tennis elbow flaring up, and I did have to keep switching ball weights, but I did pretty well. We absolutely sucked at score keeping — I haven’t had to manually add up bowling scores in decades. Math does NOT belong on a date night.
But cocktails definitely DO belong on date night! For one of his picks, HWSNBN signed us up for a virtual cocktail class. We joined two other couples from other parts of the country and made three different tequila drinks, thanks to the the website Cozymeal. The class was called Tequila Cocktails with a Twist, and our Mixologist, Anthony, was great (follow him on Instagram). We made a life-changing margarita, a Paloma (I don’t dig grapefruit juice, but everyone else raved), and a Mexican Old-Fashioned. I was surprised how much I liked that last one, given it’s brown-liquor roots. But I’ll try any drink once, lol. And often twice.
When we finally got a glorious day, we struck out with resident dog Stevie Nicks and foster Ebby the Westie and enjoyed some of Minneapolis’s beauty. Everyone was out and about, loving the weather. It was so wonderful to be in a crowd of happy people again! Weddings, street musicians, prom pictures, families and friends and other “daters.” Glorious!
Some of our “dates” aren’t always official one-on-ones. Since the pandemic hit, we regularly spend time together giving platelets. Not exactly fun and games, but it IS something that we both get great satisfaction out of doing, and it’s something that helps bond us together. We’ve also done a lot mope double dating. For example, we went with a couple to a Minnesota Twins game.
Luckily, it was a great one, and we enjoyed watching the Twins shellac the Kansas City Royals after meeting up with two other couples at Fulton Beer. Another double date night? Adults night at the Minnesota Zoo for zoo babies! The zoo is always more fun with a cocktail in hand, and when you don’t have to let little kids get in front of you. Sometimes it’s fun to be selfish!
Our last two date nights of May couldn’t have been more different. For one, we attended the Oddities and Curiosities expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I didn’t know what to expect, except for, well some odd and curious things. We were not disappointed, lol. We thought we might find something cool for our Halloween party (which is back on this year, BTW!), but the stuff was way too weird for my guests, lol.
I mean, the beautifully framed butterflies and beetles would’ve worked, but the taxidermy two headed calf, purse made out of skin, and the mass murdered memorabilia was a bit too far off for us. The people watching was fantastic, though! No regrets going (regrets are hard to come by in my world), but I wouldn’t go again.
Last weekend we got to experience live music again for the first time since I think February 2020. We got front row seats to the Lonesome Losers show at The Hook and Ladder Theater for a Yacht Rock tribute. Almost three hours of groovy soft rock — just what the doctor ordered! Oh and the burger from the Gentleman Forager food truck was delicious!
As always, food played a prominent role in our dates.
The setting at Charlie’s on Prior made for some picturesque apres-Alpaca noshing.
For our April 14 birthday (yes, we share the day), we checked out opening night at Josefina, the new Italian place in Wayzata. The cocktails weren’t my style (too dark liquor or Aperol-bitter), but the home made pasta was a thing of beauty.
Now that Singer Girl is home for the summer, we invited her to go on one of our date nights. I’d been wanting to try the St Paul restaurant Estelle since pre-Covid, and we finally made it. Granted, it was cold and rainy and we had to sit outside, but good food, drinks and companions can compensate for pretty much anything!
All this yumminess makes me hungry — which is good, because we have dinner plans soon and I need to get ready! Hope you are having fun dating. Please let me know if you have any awesome suggestions for us to try!
(Oh: and if you haven’t already, please support my Bark in Your Park Fundraiser for Secondhand hounds! This weekend I pledged to walk 10 miles for the cause, and hopefully earn $7500 in pledges to help save more animal lives. Please donate here: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/stevie-nickss-landslide/donnitorres
Homes Sweet Homes
When I last posted about my Caribbean Beach babies, we were awfully close to adoptions. Well, I just wanted to give an update!
They moved into their forever homes almost a month ago, and everyone is so happy! I know people were worried about them being separated, but, as I suspected, they flourished apart. Within hours of Trillium leaving, Tulip realized that she was one her own and better start letting people love her. Whereas the day before she was fearful about us petting her, she was converting her struggles to snuggles by the evening! Interestingly, both girls have big sister’s who look a lot like them!
Trillium left first and moved in with her new mama Kim and big sister Gilly.
Her new name is Pearl, and, like her namesake, has come a long way from her rough beginnings! She has done great with her potty training, and has a fondness for chewing bones…and shoes…
Pearl and Gilly are very busy, with daily dog park visits and walks. They have a lot of fun together!
She likes meeting new people, but is a little shy, so would prefer to make the first move, according to her mama. She has learned some commands (and knows the word “treat” very well!).
Tulip retained her name, because, well, her big sister is named Daisy and that is too cute to not have two flower names!
Tulip was a little wary at first…
but she and Daisy connected quickly, and enjoy romping in the yard and wrestling. She enjoys getting to know the neighbor dogs as well!
As you can see from her pictures, they tandem sleep as well, lol.
Tulip is a bit slower to trust, which was how she was with us. She just recently worked up the courage to go for a walk — Mama August says it took her 20 minutes to go seven houses, because there was so much to smell! While she likes food, she is cautious about taking treats, so August is being very slow and patent with her training. Just what this little girl needs!
August has sent out Tulip’s DNA for testing, and Pearl’s will soon be in the mail. I think t will be fascinating to see how closely related they are, and how!
Thanks for all your support with them. I have a new foster now, a senior West Highland Terrier named Ebby. I’ll talk about her another time!
Oscar Say What?
So… that happened.
In Hollywood they often say that hosting the Academy Awards is the most thankless job. I think producing it has to be up there as well.
The producers are charged with giving us a show that entertains everyone in the world — every demographic, every age group. We want a glimpse into who these industry stars really are — but please: don’t take too long. Make it funny! But make it snappy. We want glamour, but no big production numbers, please. We can’t wait to hear what the winners have to say — as long as they agree with us and our political opinions. We really do want to know what it takes to be the best at the things we don’t understand; educate us, but don’t you dare school us. Cliff notes, please.
We want you to honor every single person who passed away last year, but again: we don’t have all night.
So, yeah: they failed.
They fail every year, because we all have a platform (so speaketh the person typing this for her own benefit), and we aren’t afraid to use it.
So I will be kind, because I know it is an impossible job.
The setting was stunning. Really: I want to have a party there. And Regina King’s walk into the show set us up for drama and glamour. Which we got — but not always how we’d liked to have had it.
I got a few texts during the show about how long it was taking. Keep in mind that they saved time in a ton of ways: having each presenter do two awards was smart. A more intimate venue meant walks were shorter (although I do miss the audience reaction shots). They didn’t show the songs or lots of movie clips or have any production numbers. Those last three things were negatives, IMO, even if they saved time.
The producers said they wanted to make the show more approachable to a younger generation. Ok. But if you want Gens Y and Z to pay attention, do it on the screen in their hands. Those cool personal tidbits about all the nominees, like about first jobs and favorite movies growing up? Release those as Insta stories or Tik Toks during the days leading up. Appeal to the college students studying to be cinematographers or actors or costume designers. And while I think it’s awesome to get the next generation involved, you can’t do it at the expense of the mainstays (like 50 something me).
A big complaint every year? The speeches. Every year I know my favorite speeches will not be form the big stars, but from the new people, who are so damn happy to be there. This year, two of the best speeches went to best supporting winners , Yuh-Jung Youn and Daniel Kaluuya. They were funny and sweet and gracious and grateful. Yuh-Jung Youn won hearts by both flirting with Brad Pitt and shaking her fingers at the many, many people who have butchered her name over the years. Kaluuya was joyful and his speech bounced around from exclamations of celebration to thankfulness for his parents for having sex. Watching his mom’s face when he said that? Priceless. That must’ve been a fun phone call later!
I wept when best international feature, Thomas Vinterberg, talked about Ida, his 19 year old daughter killed in a car accident days before shooting of the film began. It made me even more determined to see this movie, . Not seeing it was my one pre-Oscar regret I had.
Tyler Perry pulled no punches, saying what many have said, and what I firmly believe: “I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are black or white, or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I would hope we would refuse hate.”
He dedicated the award “to anyone who wants to stand in the middle, no matter what’s around the walls. Stand in the middle, because that’s where healing happens. That’s where conversation happens. That’s where change happens.”
The “In Memoriam” part is always controversial, as someone is always left out (this year Naya Rivera and Jessica Walter were the big omissions to most people). They tried to do a lot of people — but sadly, they went so fast many people, including my husband, complained they couldn’t read the names fast enough. This portion should be stately, not speedy. And coming on the heels of a year steeped in loss around the world, it made me uncomfortable. Were we skimming through this moment to replicate the many missed memorials and funerals last year? Is that a feeling we really want to replicate?
Looking away from what was, and looking towards what can be, Frances McDormand made a lovely speech when accepting the Best Picture award as a producer of Nomadland: “Please, watch our movie on the largest screen possible,” she said. “And one day, very, very soon, take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder to shoulder, in that dark space, and watch every film that is represented here tonight.”
I, for one, am very much looking forward to watching a movie in the theater again — even if it means I have to put on a bra.
Ok: enough chit chat. Let’s look at some pictures!
We might as well start with the biggest controversy — Best Actor. If you recall, I, like the rest of the world, thought Chadwick Bozeman was a lock — but I said Anthony Hopkins was brilliant (he was — and The Father was better than Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, IMO). Oscar was so sure that they changed the lineup and put Best Actor last. I actually had to rewind the show, sure I had somehow missed something when they announced Best Picture (they won’t make that mistake again). Anyway. Hopkins won best actor, but he wasn’t there so pics of his outfit (but google his acceptance speech released the next morning. Class). Here are our Best Actors in their finery:
Gary Oldman had fun with his ruffled blue shirt, Steven Yeun looked dapper (as expected), and Riz Ahmed looks yummy. The black turtleneck with the navy suit is fantastic.
I picked Viola Davis to win this one, but she lost to Frances McDormand — but not in the fashion wars. Some of the best and worst looks of the night were in this category. Frances McDormand didn’t walk the red carpet, so there are no great pics of her — but that hair. For the love of God. That’s Pandemmy hair all right. Couldn’t someone hand her a comb? Viola Davis looks stunning, as always. But Id didn’t love the hair with it. Vanessa Kirby looks dreadful. The dress washes her out, and the goth makeup looks like something she might have worn to piss off her mom in high school. Andra Day was close to greatness (and not just with the nomination). The dress needed to be tailored. Wanna see how to glow in gold? Carey Mulligan was one of my favorites. Gorgeous.
Best Supporting Actor:
All originals here, and they all looked great in their own ways. I picked DanieI Kaluuya to win this category, and he did, but in this style context he was probably the most underwhelming, but he looks classy and his personality shines through. Lakeith Stanfield is just hot in a crazy 70s throwback kinda way. Leslie Odom Jr embraced the gold trend with aplomb. Impeccable. Honestly, I can’t pick a favorite. Paul Raci is exactly what I would want from a “seasoned” rocker. Sacha Baron Cohen looks amazing — so opposite of what his roles usually are!
Best Supporting Actress:
Many said Amanda Seyfried was on the best dressed list. I disagree. The dress is a wowser, and the styling works great, but I feel like the dress could’ve been tailored to be more flattering. Yes: I know she just had a baby, and she looks amazing. So play up the curves: bring that waist in one more inch if you can. If you can’t then structure the hips one inch wider and curvier to balance and accentuate her voluptuousness. Glenn Close: the color is great, but why the gloves? And either lose the pants and make it a dress, or shorten the “dress” hem. I was worried Maria Bakalova would be a mess, but I was wrong. She looks lovely — nothing to put her at the tip top of the list, but awfully close. Olivia Coleman’s amazeball shoes saved her — and the color of the ensemble sings as well. But there is just something off about the tailoring of the dress, and I’m not digging the hair. Winner Yuh-Jung Youn looks wonderful. Frances McDormand: this is how you embrace your grey, and wear a dark frock that doesn’t try too hard. This woman tried — and still looks comfortable. And: I picked her, and she won!
Red and white were big color themes this year!
And don’t forget all the other colors (because I never will)!
Halle Berry’s dress was bright and fun, but was overshadowed by too-short bangs and dark circles under her eyes. Is she ok?
Zendaya wowed and was at the top of many lists. Rightfully (and expectedly) so. I loved the dress, until I saw it from the front. Then the midriff opening looked way too big, like a yawning mouth. Bit in these shots she’s a stunner:
One of my absolute favorites of the night had to be H.E.R., who just may be a Prince reincarnation in more ways than one:
Other color moments:
I wanted to do a special shout out to Emerald Fennell. I was sure we’d see a lot of florals, and I was wrong. I also said I wanted her in green, and she delivered — with floral AND green. And being pregnant to boot (gotta love these pandemic babies that people get to hide in quarantine!). She was charming!
But let’s not overlook the neutrals, if we can call them that:
This group ran the gamut. Chloe Zhou…I mean, I get it. She’s not fussy. She wants to keep it simple. I’m not asking her to change who she is, but this dress in another color would have been better. Or a different dress with tennis shoes (if this dress had been white, and a different length, the shoes would’ve been great with it. No makeup? Fine, but know that you will be super washed out on TV. And her hair loose would have been better. Doesn’t have to be super styled: put those braids in the night before, and let ’em loose for the show. A whole different look. Wear the braids with a black jumpsuit and the tennis shoes. That would’ve been cute, comfy and easy.
Nicolette Robinson is the best of the bunch here. She, like Amanda Seyfried, recently had a baby. THIS is how you do it. The rest of the ladies like good. Not great, not awful, but good.
Speaking of Robinson, she is one half of a stunning couple. I love the trend of couples dressing together!
But the best dressed couple of the night? These guys, right here:
I’d never heard of Martin Desmond Roe and Travon Free before they won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short for Two Distant Strangers. But I really wanna know them — and I want them to win more!
I also want to point out to “A”s that scored points with me: accessories, and architectural accents (is that three As?) Details can make or break an outfit. These two ladies had super cool purses:
A heart? And popcorn? I love it!
The following ladies stood out for design reasons — the construction of their garments felt almost architectural to me.
I know people hated Laura Dern’s feathery dress, but I didn’t. It wasn’t perfect (the top too austere for the fluffy bottom), but it was fun and classy to me. My two faves in the above group had to be costume designer Mia Neal’s amazing blue gown, and, of course, MISS Regina King. Or should we say Queen? Because she wore the crown. Hands down the best look of the night!
The men have turned it up big time in the past few years, and I almost look forward to seeing them more than the women. It is amazing how they have decided that the girls don’t get to have all the fun!
I thought I’d throw in a fun section: how it looked on the runway, vs how the stars wore it. Which ones were better?
Last but not least: the after parties. There weren’t as many this year, but let me leave you with some of the most memorable looks I found from those events. I hope you enjoyed my round up — I probably won’t have much to talk about regarding fashion for awhile. Looks like it’s back to doggies and date nights, lol!
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!