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Holding On to the Date Nights

So what did we do on date nights in February?

We did things on our own, as well as with groups. I do enjoy having “date nights” with other couples, as we find we are inspiring others to branch out and do new things. Any time we can encourage others to step outside of their box, it doubles the fun!

The first weekend we went to Vegas, so no one-on-one date nights, but lots of fun with two of our fave couples! We do Vegas every year with these guys and always have a blast.



Highlights included seeing Santana at the House of Blues — I love a concert, and especially when I have room to dance!

We visited  Lisa Van derPump’s new place at Caesar’s for lunch beforehand, As expected: drinks were delish, ambiance was OTT, and the food yummy (of course we had the goat cheese balls!).

We happened to be in town for Super Bowl (never again), and we rented a cabana where our group got to enjoy drinks, food, and sun while watching the wrong team win.

img_1309That night was a great dinner at a new-for-us restaurant, Catch at Aria.


The next weekend was my turn to plan, and HWSNBN was left in the dark as long as possible That was a long time indeed, as we had to pack a suitcase and drive more than 2 hours into the frozen tundra. He could not figure out where we were going, which was really fun for me.

Can I just give you a suggestion?

If you ever get a chance to attend a concert by the guy who wrote the soundtrack to your early love life as a couple, do it!

Richard Marx was playing at a casino and we hoofed it up north to see. he was so fantastic! I knew he had a huge catalog of songs and had written and collaborated with many, many famous performers. Hearing him tell the stories and sing the songs was so cool! He is a very funny guy. After the show, we hit the casino floor. ‘Twas a mite bit different than the Vegas casinos of the previous weekend, but it was fun feeling like a high roller, lol! Chicken strips and fries for dinner were also a far cry from the Haute cuisine of seven days prior, but that’s ok. This was our date, and it even reminded me of when we would run away for a night in college to Lake Tahoe, stay up all night then drive back.


This was one of those dates that never would’ve happened if we had planned it together. HWSNBN hates car trips — 30 minutes to St Paul makes him lose his mind. And he would’ve rolled his eyes at the idea of this concert. But he was wowed, and we really had a blast.

We had another sort of date that weekend. I mean, not really, but it was such a fun thing to do I wanted to share it. That Sunday, there was a huge dog-sled race called the Klondike Dog Derby on frozen Lake Minnetonka. we didn’t make all the pre-game festivities, of the days before, but we grabbed our dog, piled on the clothing layers, and trudged through the snow out onto the lake. I am excited to see that they will be doing this race again next year, because it was a very fun experience. I hope it is as sunny and gorgeous as it was this year. I would love to make it a “block party” event!

The following weekend was a double-date night with our friends’ Beth and Cory. Beth had reached out to me a couple of months prior, having found a Groupon she wanted to try. The outing had been on my date-night list already, so I agreed, and we surprised the guys with an evening of glass blowing at Foci! We each made colorful paperweights, and the whole process was super interesting. I’d love to try it again!

Afterward, we went out to dinner, and I have to say it was an epic fail. I was in charge of the dinner reservations, and I picked a place I would NEVER go to again. That stinks. Beth and Cory were polite, but it was embarrassing on my end.

The next week we had a double date and a single date planned. I have learned that when you miss someone and want to hang out, you should do so. So often we run into people places and say “we should get together!” Then, you never do? So now I try to reach out the next day and schedule something. Like, hey, what are you guys free on these dates?” I never regret it — there is a reason you say that whole “let’s get together sometime” thing. You like those people!

So earlier in the week, I had reached out a couple we enjoy, Matt and Kristy, whom we hadn’t hung out with in a while. We were miraculously both free, so Friday night we met for dinner and an activity. First up was a fantastic meal at Borough (we had tried to go to Parlour, but it was a madhouse. Another time!). Dinner was great and inventive, and the cocktails were the same.

We hung out a really long time chatting, then hopped into the car and went to the next locale: Modist brewery. they were having an indoor golf event, which sounded like something new and fun to try. But I read it wrong: it wasn’t the whole putting green deal. It was frisbee golf from TC Putts and Pints!

We had a ball — even if we did suck. I mean, I definitely sucked more than the others. But none of us was gonna be in the Masters.

Our last date night of February was planned by HWSNBN. It was on the calendar as “awesome date night,” and he was very excited to share it with me. This was a Tuesday night, date, showing that fun can be had on even the most basic of days!

Off we went to Badger Hill Brewing Company in Shakopee, where we participated in a Paint Your Pet Night by Gray Duck Art. HWSNBN had sent pics of our dog Stevie Nicks and our foster pup, Weeble, and we had a fancy paint by numbers kit waiting for us! Throw in a great beer and a Heggie’s frozen pizza and we had a ball!

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The March date report will be abbreviated, I fear — and April’s will likely be so as well. Social distancing is tough on our adventures, but we get it. It just gives me time to map out new things in a healthier future!

The History of a Home

In my last post I talked about some of the frustrations involved with the purchase of our new home site. But I think too often we fall into the traps of ownership, and get bogged down in the troubles and doubts that arise. Let’s take a moment or two to appreciate the charms of the new place in our hearts — and the soon-to-be-new hearth of our home.
As I think I’ve mentioned, I wanted a Goldilocks piece of land:  not too small, not too big, just right. I wanted to be in a neighborhood, but not right on top of our neighbors. The spot had to be close enough to everything — and everyone — that we have grown to love in our current Minneapolis suburb. Enter Walden.
I was on the property’s doorstep the day it hit the market.  The current owners, three sons, were selling the home off as part of their late mother’s estate. I knew pretty quickly that this was not just an anonymous address, but a place that had a history. Sitting in the front yard were two very old, wooden-slatted folding chairs. It looked like the owners had just gone inside for a glass of tea, but no one had rested in those seats for many years. Those were mom and dad’s chairs, we were to learn at closing, and the sons couldn’t bear to move them. So we are guarding them, until I can find a place for them when we finish building our new home. They make me happy.

The property is 1.25 acres, which could have been too big, but the house is nestled up to the street. Later we would learn that by today’s laws it doesn’t meet setback restrictions, but that’s okay. We’ll work with it. The house was built in 1957, and the same family had lived there ever since. They built it out of the bricks of the barn originally housed on the site.  I love those bricks — they have a beautiful golden color, and sometimes I think of all the people over the years that have brushed up against them. We want to reuse them again, but sadly we doubt enough of them will survive to do much. We may just build a cool feature wall, or a fire pit, but I will save some of them.
The house sits down below the street level, which makes me feel like it’s a magic cottage. It isn’t. It’s just an old ranch house, but I feel something when I am there. It has an amazing stone retaining wall, which we believe is about 100 years old. It needs work, but we are soooo keeping it. The previous owners tried to patch it, using cement and muscle, but it really needs to be restored the old fashioned way, just rock on rock. There’s a ton of big rocks on the property, and I want to use them to add to the wall, and make it partially encircle the front yard to make it a special gathering place.

The little house                                                        Just another rock in the wall
The neighborhood has a cool history. During the late 1800s, Lake Minnetonka was a playground for the wealthy citizens of  Minneapolis.  Folks hopped in their horse-drawn carriages and fled the heat and noise of the city for the tranquility of the big lake a little over 30 miles to its west.   In 1880,  a grand hotel opened its doors, The St. Louis Hotel.   (     The hotel was quite the place to be — until competition –and a devastating fire — shuttered it forever.  Enter Walter Douglas, who bought the site.  Douglas was an Iowa boy, who came from money (his dad founded Quaker Oats),  but he became wealthy in his own right through various businesses, and especially through the linseed oil business.  Douglas and his wife Mahala built an extravagant mansion on the spot — but first they had to haul all the burned remains from the St Louis away.  They dumped them in what is now our future backyard!

                                                                         This is the old carriage house, now a family home

Our home is the site of the estate’s barn.  Across the street is the original carriage house.  When that was renovated, they removed the old arched carriage doors and installed big glass windows.  They left one horse stall, with it’s metal bars, as the library.  The original tack room is still there — but it’s now the bar, and the watering trough that once refreshed horses now waters people.  The original mansion is still there, too, but you can’t see it from the road.  Think I’ll drop off a pie after we move in…

Any-who, when the house was finished some time in late 1911, the happy couple took off to Europe for a furniture buying spree.   After they crossed the last settee off the shopping list, they sailed home — on the Titanic.  Yup.  He went down with the ship, but she came home.  I assume all the furniture sank, too.  ( Mahala was still living in the home when she died in 1945.  Not sure if that’s when the family let the estate go, but now Walden (the estate named after their son) is a charming neighborhood of about 20 homes.  And soon we will live in one of them.  We will not, however, be travelling to Europe to furnish it.

The couple that built the existing home were from the south, and the house reflects that.  I thought of my Richmond, Va grandmother as soon as I saw it — the breezeway, which framed a stunning view, was surely a site of many family gatherings.  When you venture to the back of the house, stately columns greet you — odd enough for Minnesota, weirder still that they are in the back of the house!  The back yard, for us, will be used mostly for the view.  We won’t landscape back here, except to clean it up and maybe remove dead trees, invasive species, or little saplings that are getting in their big siblings’ way.

This is the view that sold us on the property's potential                                  This is the back of the house

Speaking of trees, there are several awesome ones on the property.  I know we will have to get rid of some (disease, growing too close to the house, etc), but we do hope to save many of the coolest ones.  There’s one in the back we call the Halloween tree.  We won’t save it — it’s pretty diseased.  But it looks cool.  Maybe we can save part of it and it will become part of my annual Halloween party (which I really should be decorating for right now.  I did order part of my costume today, so that’s something!

)This tree is awfully close to the existing structure -- and to the one we will build,  Jury is still out on whether it will survive.                         Close up of the creepy tree!                   Backyard view

Anyway, as we have drawn our plans for the new house, my mind keeps turning to those whose lives have touched this land.  The high-society folk taking tea on the veranda at the St Louis Hotel, the doomed couple sailing off into the icy sunset, the family with 3 boys who undoubtedly

played cowboys and Indians in the forest below the house.  I want to respect the past while I create our future.  Our main entertaining area will be the front yard, where that wonderful rock wall stands guard.  And where those two sweet chairs sat.  I hope their former inhabitants approve of how me turn their home into our own.

The view through the breezeway.          The view from the front of the house -- those bushes above the rock wall (lilacs!)are at street level.

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