Like everyone else, we’ve been pivoting on the date night thing. Changes in weather, and rising COVID rates, meant options were becoming harder to find. So, rather than a monthly recap, I’m moving to bi-monthly, because, well, there just isn’t as much story to tell.
Our first October date night was his choice. We headed over to the movely Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to wander and enjoy the scenery.
If you’re a Minnesotan, and have never been, go. If you are like us and go maybe once a year, change that and go seasonally (that’s on my to do list next year). If you live in another area, find one near you. Ours is run by the University of Minnesota, and, as they say on the website,
“Founded in 1958, we are a member-driven non-profit with more than 1,200 acres of professionally-maintained gardens, rare plant collections and accessible trails…the Arboretum is engaged in cold-hardy plant research and has developed 27 commercial apples, including Honeycrisp, Haralson and First Kiss®. In 2019, USA Today readers named the Arboretum the best botanical garden in North America.”
Learn more about it here.
Every time we go we are inspired on ways to further enhance our yard (and usually HWSNBN comes home with pocket fulls of seeds. Sometimes he even writes down what they are for.
The Arb often has seasonal displays and exhibits. You may remember our date night there last winter to see the lights. This time the featured exhibit was a scarecrow competition.
After dinner, we headed to dinner in a new-for-us location 30 Bales in Hopkins. Would totally go again. It looks like a typical diner (a little fancified), but the food is anything but ordinary.
Next it was a nightcap, aka a nice glass of wine, at the Vine Room, also in Hopkins.
The next week we got busy –socially speaking. We double dated on Friday evening with friends Christi and Jim (the Sun 50 folks) at a new Excelsior Restaurant, the Bull and Finch.
Saturday it was my turn to plan. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, so we headed east to St Paul. We pretty much only go to St Paul when I plan dates, because HWSNBN is sure we will fall off the edge of the earth of we drive that far (it’s like a 30 minute drive, max). First up was a late lunch/early dinner at the The Gnome Craft Pub. Formerly the Happy Gnome, this place was revamped by celebrity chef Justin Sutherland and partners, complete with a to die for patio (swinging chairs under the trees and fairy lights? yes, please!).
Food is drippy and delicious, and this will be my go to for pre-gaming for Xcel Energy Center events post-COVID. We started with Shaved Raclette (molten hot cheese, potatoes and shaved ham — was there any question I would be into this?). He had the Carved Barbacoa sandwich, and I had the Carved Wet Pork (great band name, BTW). Defintely a three napkin sandwich.
Traditionally we only see the changing leaves on Cathedral Hill during the last miles of the Twin Cities Marathon, and neither of us looks up — he’s eyeing the finish line and I’m searching for him.
The mansions are gorgeous, however, and I’ve always wanted to explore them. All the hosted tours were closed, but I found a cool self-guided one online, courtesy of Big Boy Travel. For a few hours we wandered, learning all about the neighborhoods and who had built and lived in the various homes.
(the tour starts at the St Paul cathedral and finished at the James J Hill House. Both were closed to the public (thanks, COVID) so we will have to go back. We had a ball. At one point, a woman who lived in the area watched us as we read off the info about some homes on her block. She interrupted ato ask what we were doing, and was fascinated by the website. She learned something new, and was excited to try the tour for herself, even though she’d lived amidst all that gorgeous history for years!
The next weekend was his turn. With dog Stevie Nicks in tow, HWSBN took us to a very cool pumpkin patch in Watertown called the LuceLine Orchard. It was funny watching Stevie’s reactions to all the people, dogs and other animals. At one point she was just following her nose, then lifted her head and was within bleating distance of a goat and a chicken. Girlfriend jumped and did a double take. A little later she met a very large, very furry, cow.
Stevie wanted nothing to do with her, and backed away quickly. She is such a suburban dog. She looked at us like, “Is this what you guys do when you leave me???”
Decided to drop her back at home to recover (what must those doggie dreams have been like, I wonder?), and went to dinner to one of our faves, Coalition in Excelsior.
We kicked off November with a double date with friends Matt and Patti. Just a nice, easy night at a delicious place I’ve mentioned before: P.S.Steak. My only complaint is that they didn’t have their French Onion soup on the menu. They need to bring that back! But let’s face it — the steaks are to die for, and ya gotta love a Baked Alaska! So retro, so delish!
We took kind of a break from date nights after that, and instead took a trip which I will talk about in another blog. Then Singer Girl came home, and Thanksgiving happened, so we have been focused in those directions. We did manage a nice date night in, with takeout from the aforementioned Bull and Finch, and me beating the pants off him playing Racko.
The date nights have definitely mellowed, but they are just as necessary. Man, are we gonna date night HARD when this pandemic is over! We are so lucky to live here, and I intend to take full advantage of everything we can!
When Singer Girl went back to school in August, we realized it was time to kick date nights back into gear. It’s harder now, in some ways, to find wild, new, interesting things to do. I mean, the world is kinda shut down, so options are fewer. That just means we have to dig a little deeper. But hey: every little outing feels like a gala ball when you are starved for social interaction!
In September we tried several new places, while still finding time to visit a few treasured faves. The first weekend of the month we were in Madeline, and I covered that last post. The next week we had two date nights, one picked by me, the other by him.
First up: my turn! On Thursday night we did a double appointment with my acupuncturist, Kate at Peak Life Clinic. Ironically, HWSNBN is the one who got me started with the needle life, but he’d never been himself. So our date nights worked well to get him there (remember the rules: one person plans, and the other has no say!). Afterwards we visited Cast and Cru restaurant, where we haven’t been in far too long. It’s weird seeing the Old Log Theater quiet. We also realized that this winter Cast and Cru probably won’t open up the little cabin bar we enjoyed squeezing into last year. But a well-poured cocktail from the C & C bartenders does help dull that pain!
For our anniversary, HWSNBN took the lead. He has always liked basing gifts and celebrations on the “traditional” gift guides for anniversaries. The gift for 26 years is evidently photography, so we wandered around some lovely galleries in Minneapolis looking for a lovely piece of art to put on our sadly barren walls. Some of the places we enjoyed included the Groveland Gallery and Galeria do Beija Flor.
One of the best parts about exploring the world on foot is getting lost and finding treasures. One such place was the amazing Brickmania.
We caught sight of the amazing Lego reconstructions of the USS Missouri. Cannot wait to bring Sailor Boy here some day. He will geek out, just like we did.
One of our favorite crazy places to shop is Architectural Antiques. I mean, from door knobs to church pews, bowling alleys to antique crystal chandeliers, they’ve got it. We have bought many special things here over the years — like our copper front door, and the stained glass double doors on HWSNBN’s office. We didn’t buy anything today, but oh, man, did I want to!
We also enjoyed a jaunt around the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
The next weekend I had a puppy party for work so we borrowed a couple of puppies to be our arm candy at Excelsior Brewing Company, our fave neighborhood beer joint.
The next day we double dated with our friends Matt and Kristy, and hit a few breweries and wineries out west.
The next weekend, the last in September, our weekend was a little busy so we couldn’t do much just the two of us. But we managed to squeeze in a PHENOMENAL meal at Vann Restaurant, a place we’d never yet tried.
That food was simply elegant and delightful!
As I write this we’ve already done a few fun October date nights, but TBH it’s gonna get harder with the double whammy of COVID-19 and a Minnesota winter. But we’ll prevail!
Oh: and stay tuned for a super exciting post in a day or so!!!
So… how you doin’?
I haven’t blogged in a while because, well, it’s not like I’ve been out and about, seeing and being seen. I can’t work, as I am “fur”-loughed (no puppy parties, although I personally consider puppy breath essential). No date nights, unless you call side-by-side weeding quality time. No fancy dinners (but lots of takeout). No travel (and no, the grocery store does not count).
But we are still healthy, and no one in our family has gotten sick, so I don’t want to complain too loudly.
So what HAVE we been up to?
We finished the Marvel Universe Infinity Stone movie saga. While watching it we had family movie night almost every day — which was great (although the wine and popcorn diet was not good for the waistline). Now that it is done, we need to find something else, as we have started drifting to opposite corners of the house again and I miss the time with Singer Girl.
Singer Girl has officially finished her first year as a Michigan Wolverine. Officially, her grades say “Passed — COVID,” but she will petition to have the letter grades appear on her transcript as she killed it. She has been working on arranging songs for her a Capella group as she was chosen to be a co-music director for the organization. She has also been writing music and practicing so she can (hopefully) record and perform later this summer. I am loving all this time. I get to enjoy her singing (although we are supposed to pretend we can’t hear her. Don’t ask. It’s a thing.) We chat all the time about school. When she is away, she never hides things from me. But she has other folks to chat with, so she doesn’t need to share every detail with me.
She is getting antsy now, and it doesn’t help that her Macbook crashed. I allowed her to have a girlfriend over to hang out the other night. I felt like such a bad person, as that is still verboten in our neck of the woods. I guess slowly but surely we will have to start dipping our toes into the pool of society. Today we are being risky again. I invited my mom over for dinner for Mother’s Day. I just couldn’t stand the idea of her being alone for yet another event. I’m torn: is that selfish, selfless, or a combo of the two? I gave her the choice — but really I knew she’d come over. She was so sweet to promise she hadn’t been anywhere. I reminded her that I am more concerned about us getting her sick than the opposite. Hopefully, I won’t regret this!
I haven’t signed up for any new fosters since Secondhand Hounds has so many new fosters we can’t keep up with dog demand. But I miss being around new dogs, so I reached out to a fellow foster and borrowed her three German Shepherd puppies for a 24-hour playdate.
This was both a good and bad idea. Good, because I got a fix. Bad, because, like all junkies, I am craving another hit. So I have told other whelping fosters that I am available for more one night stands if they need a break or if their dogs need a little extra socializing. This could be habit-forming.
As mentioned in a previous post, I am obsessed with books. So many have been read, my husband has had whiplash. The other night I sat on the couch, closed a book, and declared it done. About an hour later, he saw me propped up in bed. Reading.
“Didn’t you just FINISH a book?”
“Yes. So I had to start another one.”
He looked at me like I had a sickness. Maybe I do.
Apparently, I have a couple of them.
I also get great satisfaction from purging and organizing. COVID has made this both easier and harder. Easier, because I have the time. Harder, because my garage is packed with giveaways that I can’t get rid of. Which means my projects are logjammed. I rearranged all my costumes into bins and want to put them in the attic.
But I can’t get them into the attic because the attic access is in the garage and there is no room in the garage because of all the giveaways I can’t give away. And I need to move stuff out of the attic to make room for new attic stuff, but, well, no room in the garage. It’s a circle of hell Dante forgot to write about.
My garage is also crammed with plants awaiting new homes in the yard. I had a Scarlet O’Hara moment sanding in my weed-plagued yard, surrounded by creeping charlie and garlic mustard and declared that, as God is my witness, I will never have a yard this overgrown again. COVID gave us lots of extra time, and spring has been mercifully dry and mild, so I am logging untold hours hacking at weeds. I know the only way to successfully control the weed invasion is not only to eradicate but to build a fortress against future insurrections by planting new stuff. So I asked on Nextdoor for extra plants folks were getting rid of or splitting, and I have battalions of hostas, ferns, Achillea, lilies, and more just waiting to be called into action. Unfortunately, the weather has taken a frigid turn. It looks like we will have several days of near-freezing items at night, so planting is on hold. I am hoping to get back out tomorrow to do more weeding, even if I can’t plant.
We will win this war! (If I wear jodhpurs and carry a riding crop while warring against the weeds, will my neighbors find me wacko?)
We remain committed to getting takeout from local restaurants. Every day I check the paper to see if we have lost any more great establishments! Easter dinner came courtesy of 6Smith in Wayzata.
Food was amazing — but they were unprepared for the demand. HWSNBN had to wait more than an hour for our order! We have encountered this a couple of times — like when we did Cinco de Mayo takeout from Baja Haus in Wayzata. Again: food was good (especially the margarita mix!), but waiting more than an hour is maddening. These poor restaurants!
Want something cool? Order from Travail Kitchen in Robbinsdale. Their takeout comes with instructions on how to put t all together so it is fresh and hot and ready to eat (and the accompanying videos are delightful).
Another huge win: biscuits from Betty and Earl’s. I have been wanting to try this place since local media master Jason Matheson opened it up, but have been too lazy to go try it. So when they announced they would do satellite delivery stations, I leapt at the chance. And now I am addicted. Damnit.
Not to worry — we’ve been cooking as well! Chinese food, Mexican, grilling, Italian, etc. And yes: there have been wine and popcorn nights, as previously mentioned. Don’t judge.
You know you’ve been home a lot when there is nothing left in your DVR. I know television and movie studios are panicking as they can’t make new content. But know I have o excuse not to watch things I’ve meant to, whether old movies or a new series. Singer Girl has actually decided to try to see all the best movies of each decade as proclaimed by her fave youtube channel, WatchMojo. I want to watch with her, but she has admitted that I am not the best movie companion, as I like to guess what is going t happen. I promised to do better — and pay her for every time I interrupt film, kind of like a swear job. I guess we all need to use our stay at home time to better ourselves!
One way I am now slacking on the “bettering me” front? I have stopped working out daily. Mainly, it’s because the yard work is kicking my butt! But I gave myself a firm talking to about the snacking and extraneous alcohol consumption, and I feel that is compensating. My goal now is to re-enter society one pound lighter than I went into isolation. Not a lofty goal, but again: lots of takeout, wine, and popcorn have made me a bit squishy.
According to the last announcement, Minnesota may get a few restrictions lifted on May 18th. I am not expecting full freedoms, but I am excited for a little bit more. Scared, though, as numbers everywhere are going up, not down. I know the goal isn’t to NEVER get COVID, but to make sure we don’t all get it at once. Like everyone else, I am ready to start planning again — travel, dinners out, hugs. In the meantime, I think I’ll go get something done.
So there’s this bug going around…
No, I don’t have it — yet.
Am I the only one out there not freaked out, but still get that it is a real thing? I mean, I know I will likely get it, or at least be exposed to it if I haven’t been already. I also assume that, sadly, I will know someone who dies. That’s an awful thought, but the odds are likely.
In the meantime, I am not sitting around wringing my hands and obsessively watching press conferences or reading charts or graphs or statistics.
My life has changed, sure. Date nights are gone. So is any personal space. My activities at home have to be curtailed to accommodate our home being turned into an office and school space.
The first time it started feeling real for our family was on our trip to Seattle Feb 27-March 2nd. That was about the time it started breaking open in Washington. As we wandered through museums and tourist attractions, rode planes and Ubers and ferries and monorails, ate samples at food markets and didn’t wash our hands enough, the bug was out there, closing in.
On Wednesday the 10th, HWSNBN was sent home from work to self-quarantine. He hasn’t been back to work since. That was the first way the pandemic has affected the family. We are lucky that he is still working — but keeping puppies quiet during his conference calls has been challenging.
At my weekly marketing meeting for Secondhand Hounds, the animal rescue I work for, we discussed possibly changing our upcoming events. I reached out the next day, Thursday, to my upcoming puppy parties (that’s what I do: I run our puppy party division), assured them that animals can’t spread the virus, but if they wanted to reschedule, that’s fine. No one took me up on the offer.
The next day we sent another letter, informing that all events were canceled, whether we liked it or not.
About that time my daughter and son were starting to feel the ripple effects where they are.
Singer Girl goes to school in Michigan (Go Blue!). She loves it there. I told her to prepare for things to change. I told her that her A Cappella group’s trip to Boston would likely be canceled. She said no way (it was canceled). I told her folks would soon be leaving. She said no way. The local kids started heading home temporarily. The school canceled classes for two days to decide how to handle the situation. They went to online classes. She wanted to see what would happen with all the social stuff. When St Patrick’s Day and Aca prom and here sorority’s charity event were all canceled, she was stunned.
I told her she would be coming home soon. She said no. She was still working; in fact, she was working more than she ever had, to cover the shifts of all those who had left already. She also worried about exposing us to anything she had come in contact with.
I told her she would be coming home. She said she didn’t want to leave her friends. I said just start emotionally planning for it. She rolled her eyes, and we hung up.
Two hours later she called and said, “Ok: come get me.”
So last Thursday I drove 10 hours to Michigan. We packed her up the next day and drove back on Saturday.
Now, we all have to juggle wifi and quiet time so she can do her studies, HWSNBN can do his work, and I can stay sane while they step all over my routine.
Sailor Boy is supposed to change duty stations this summer — to Italy. Not sure if that’s going to happen now. The military is taking some major steps to deal with the virus, and his day to day life has drastically changed. He calls every day, and we discuss the latest development. Will he go to Italy? Will he stay with his current ship? Will he deploy? Will the navy help him move? Will I have to go to Washington and help?
Weirdly it’s like wartime. It’s what he signed up for, I tell him. In a lot of ways, this whole gig reminds me of what I imagined WW2 was like. Folks are sacrificing and stockpiling. We are being told to use supplies wisely. Many common items are hard to come by. People are churning out homemade masks and hospital gowns to protect health care workers. Neighbors are checking in on one another. Again, we all are waiting for that shoe to drop: who will we know that will pay the ultimate price?
Rescue is all weird now too. We have been told to stop doing spay and neuter surgeries. We’ve already cut our office staff to a skeleton crew. On the plus side, more people than ever before want to foster. Sadly, we are unable to take in as many animals as we usually do, as we have cut down on transports to minimize potential volunteer exposure. So we have fosters just waiting to help, and we can’t get needy animals to their waiting homes.
On a day to day level, my life isn’t radically different. I am not worried. My philosophy for most of my life has been to plan for the worst, hope for the best.
In 2015, I saw a movie that pretty much changed my life: Bridge of Spies. Tom Hanks stars as an attorney on cold war America, called upon to defend an accused Russian spy. He funds the situation distasteful, to say the least, but does his civic duty Upon meeting the spy in jail, Hanks’s character explains the gravity of the situation, while the accused spy calmly listens. hanks, exasperated, asks why he is so calm. Isn’t he worried?”
“Would it help?” the Russian replies.
Would it help? Does worrying help? No, of course not. It just stresses you out. So from that moment on, whenever I get that nagging feeling, I pause and take a breath. Rather than waste energy worrying, I take action. Do what I can to take control of the situation, then let it go.
That’s where I am now: I have done what I can to prepare. Now I breathe. And wait.