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!
From Beaches to Snowbanks
I hadn’t taken on a new foster since before the pandemic, and I was itching for one. So I got two.
Not just any two. And not just from anywhere. We flew down to St Thomas, USVI, and brought back two scaredy dogs.
It started with an email to our International Program Coordinator. Did we have any contacts there? Could she find me some dogs to bring back? She was worried that it would be tough with the late notice, especially since we didn’t have established contacts there, but she’d try.
Meanwhile, we were on vacation, and I happened to strike up a conversation with a boat captain. He told me he was good friends with someone who worked with the St Thomas Humane Society I asked for her contact info, and reached across the aisle.
Did they think we could make it happen? They, too, weren’t sure. But they have a robust international program called Pets With Wings so are very experienced, and they got on the task.
The next few days were full of calls, texts and emails. Could we take cats? Dogs? Bonded pairs? Any breed restrictions? They were feeling us out, as they needed to know they could trust us. Luckily the organizer has heard of Secondhand Hounds and was willing to take a chance on us — and me.
When you travel with a dog to be adopted, there are lots of restrictions. May depend on the airline, and each airline might have different restrictions and requirements depending on where the flight originated. For example: I needed animals small enough to fit in carriers under the seat in front to me; they couldn’t be too young; they had to be healthy. So Rhea worked her magic in the Caribbean, and Taylor finagled from the cold, bold North. And Tammy met me at the airport.
Meet Tulip and Trillium, sisters (presumably from different misters) who were trapped as part of the island’s save the strays program.
The girls are about 4 months old, and scared of everything. Tammy was especially worried that we would try to rush them into acclimating, but I reassured her we would take it slowly.
We got all checked into our Delta flight (they were awesome).
The pups were drowsy thanks to a little Benadryl, and settled into the flight easily. We never heard a peep from them for the whole six hour flight.
When we got them home, I let them out of their carriers, and let them wander into the house on their own. Well, Tulip walked in, took her first right and found my dog’s kennel. Trillium frantically followed, and there they stayed. All night. No interest in food or water, and definitely not interested in the humans. When Stevie Nicks sniffed at them through the door, Tulip growled a little, but that was it. We all went to bed.
On our first full day with them, I began Operation Ignore the Dogs. When you have super skittish pups, they need to learn to trust you. Who knows what these babies endured in their little lives! They were not aggressive at all, but would cower whenever I tried to approach them.
They stuck around the laundry room (that’s where their kennel domain is), ad got busy catching up on what they didn’t do the day before: eat, drink, poop, pee.
If I tried to approach the kennel, they would press their bodies against the back wall and scratch like they were trying to escape.
Periodically I would come in the room and lay down prone on the floor, stick my hand in the kennel, and not look at them. It took awhile, but eventually Trillium, the black one, would do a cautious sniff — then a scurry.
The next day they decided to explore. First they discovered my closet, which is attached to the laundry room. That was interesting with its piles of unwashed vacation laundry. Then they expanded their horizons, going into the adjoining bathroom, then our bedroom. I decided to try something: I scattered kibble down the long hallway to the main part of the house. As long as they couldn’t see or hear me, they would nibble and follow the trail.
When in my office, which shares a wall with that hallway I could hear scampering feet, so knew they were getting braver. A peek around the corner discovered playing puppies! Things like that were big steps I knew If they felt comfortable enough to let their guard down and play, even for a second, we were making progress.
They discovered a dog bed in the great room.
Decided that was cool — but not awesome enough to stick around when they saw me. Back to the kennel!
The next day they decided they were obsessed with Stevie Micks. Not like, hey, she seems cool, maybe we could hang” way. But as in an OMIGODWHERE HAVE YOU BEEN WHERE AE YOU GOING? CAN WE TOUCH YOU? way. They would just flirt mercilessly, curling their bodies and lowering to the ground, frantically wagging tails and bowed ears.
Stevie thought they were weird. She kept escaping outside, which stressed them out terribly. They would cry and whine when she left, certain that the great glass portal door had swallowed her up for all eternity, never to return. I didn’t need to with the door when she wanted back in: the puppies would whine and scratch and jump around — until I walked over. Then they would sprint to the other room, torn between fear for me and lust for Stevie.
I started using that lust to my advantage. I’d put my had out for sniffs when they wanted her back in. Sometimes it worked, but rarely.
They started being naughty: dragging things from suitcases. Chewing slippers. Trillium realized she could jump on the couch. Tulip, a good 5 pounds heavier and three inches taller, wouldn’t get there for a few days. Taunting ensued.
We decided to see how they would do outside. We don’t have a fenced yard, so double-leashing was a must. That’s tricky, when they don’t let us near. But we managed, and out we all went.
They had a ball! Who knew little beachy babies would love the snow? Of course, the main quest was attempting closeness with Stevie, who loves to run and chase and knock puppies over. They were all in. Until, of course, I decided they had been barefoot in the snow for long enough. HWSNBN managed to grab Trillium, who screamed like she was being gutted. I used Stevie to lure Tulip in, so that was a little less dramatic but no less stressful. We have not tried the front yard since.
They prefer napping, anyway.
I have tried to get them used to the leash, by coating it with peanut butter and laying it on the ground. I don’t think they hate the leash — they just hate us getting close enough to put them on (and God forbid we hold the end when we do get them on). I’m going to reach out to the SHH trainers for advice on that.
We’ve had them now almost two weeks. Occasionally I can get close enough to pet or scratch them, but they certainly don’t relax when I do. I wish I could start house training them, but that’s just going to have to wait until we get more trust. I’d also love to get them outside for walks, but again, we seem to be a ways away for that. There may come a day when I decide to separate them, but I don’t think they are there yet, I don’t know that they are relying on each other exactly, so that may not be necessary. I am not ready for them to go up on the website yet: if they won’t let me touch them, bring potential adopters into the house could be traumatic.
I am not frustrated: I have four months of fear to overcome. I am sad they are missing out on walks and pets and cuddles, but all of a sudden one day it will click, and there will be no turning back. I know that they have lives of love ahead of them! And I know that if not for the valiant efforts of rescuers almost 2,500 miles apart, they would most likely have ended up with terrible lives.
So for now, I will continue to throw kibble around, and hope that one day they will look at me with as much joy as they do Stevie Nicks!
If you would like to save a dog or cat when you travel next, and live in the Minnesota area, click here for more information. If you are not in our area, contact your local rescue, or find a rescue in the country you are visiting.
Bye Bye Bremerton
Sailor Boy called one morning, casually asking what we were doing that weekend. He tried to be sly, but I knew where this was going: he was coming home.
We’d been planning for this for more than a year: he was moving to Italy with the Navy, and needed to come home to bring his car and other supplies, and for some R and R before he moved, and I was taking the road trip to Minnesota with him. Originally this was planned for last July, but he was unexpectedly deployed. Since last April 1, we and his USS Nimitz shipmates had been aboard. They were sailing on, but he got to be flown off early so as to finally change duty stations (as I write this, the Nimitz is days away from FINALLY returning home. Congrats to all!).
So I rearranged my schedule and waited for details. I looked into flights and hotels and driving routes. I researched funky sights and yummy restaurants. Once I got the speciic dates he would be home, I made reservations and waited.
Meanwhile, he was cooling his heels in Bahrain, waiting for transport back to the States. He slept a lot (in a real bed, not a tiny, no privacy rack with 5 other people within reach). He took long showers where he could have the water whatever temperature he chose. He went barefoot. He ate good food, and lots of it. His texts to us revealed the sheer joy he experienced in simple things:
“Oh my god…The (hotel) has a renowned Italian restaurant. I am laughing right now only because I’m on the verge of crying. The wine. The bread. The mozzarella. The everything. I’m back. I am in genuine pleasure over ARUGULA. This is the time where it hits and I know I’m safe.”
It made us happy to hear him happy, but I needed him back where I could see him. A few days later he was back in Washington, and I was days from joining him.
I flew out two days before our road trip. We spent the time before we left packing and purging, closing accounts and saying goodbye to my brother and sister in law who live out there. He also got a Covid test and one last haircut from his favorite stylist.
Then it was time to pile in his Nissan and make the drive!
Before we set off bright and early to catch the Seattle ferry, Sailor Boy wanted me to get a donut from one of his fave places in Bremerton, Dallas Donuts. This tiny unassuming place reminds me of a mom and pop Winchell’s of old. I’m not usually a donut person, but these were GOOD. So good, that I forgot to take a pic of them until the last bite, lol.
From Seattle, he wanted to stop in Leavenworth. I know — in my mind all I could think of was the prison, too. But Leavenworth, WA is super cute. It’s this replica Bavarian town in the Cascade Mountains. Seems the once thriving town fell on hard times when the railroad moved out. Some townspeople visited Germany, and were reminded of how much the mountains there reminded them of home — and realized: we could turn our struggling town into its own fairytale!
The town is full of charm in the form of architecture, shops, bars and restaurants.
I’d have loved to spend more time there, but we just wandered a bit then had a nice, hearty German lunch at Ludwig’s.
After we wiped to grease off our faces, we hit the road, with our evening destination of Missoula, Montana in our sights. Sailor Boy’s job for the trip was to download a book for us to listen to, and he enjoyed his task, spending his last week’s of deployment making his choice. He chose a Terry Pratchett book called Guards! Guards!. I was worried, as I am a visual learner, have never listened to an audiobook, and he likes complicated books with creatures and mystical names and places and stuff. But it was very funny, and we and a ball. It made me think of the nights spent reading books to him at bedtime, only now he was explaining the story to me. I could get used to that.
Along the way we enjoyed some snacks picked up in Leavenworth…
From Washington we hit Idaho, which was pretty unremarkable except for Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. So wish we had hit that area in broad daylight, as the scenery was stunning. Definitely on my list of places to visit in the future!
Shortly after we crossed the Montana border, things started to feel a little different. Like, we went into a gas station and we were the only ones in masks. Even the cops and store keepers didn’t wear them. Freaked me out, I’m not gonna lie. Ironic that as the day darkened to night, so did people’s attitudes towards safety.
The next day our goal was Deadwood, South Dakota. Had breakfast at the hotel, and hit the road.
One of the things I researched before our trip was a cool website called Roadside America. Among other things, it lists all sorts of really odd roadside attractions you can stop ad see on an adventure. We didn’t stop much, but we did read about things as we passed. Our mantra for this stretch of journey: “what the heck, Montana?”
For example, you have the Big Stack. The larest free-standing masonry sculpture in teh world (the Washington Mounument could fit inside it easily),it’s literally an old smokestack. They tore down the factory, but folks in teh area protested, so tehy kept it up. But you can’t get within a mile of it, becasue the ground is toxic thanks to the arsneic and lead from it’s working days. Which leads me to perhaps teh creepiest Montana “toursit attraction” we read about, “the Lake of Death.”
Used to be an open-pit copper mine. Now, according to the Roadside Attractions page, “it’s a massive lake of deadly drainage, as large as 484 football fields, 1,800 feet deep (deeper than any of the Great Lakes) and a mile across. The pit holds over 40 billion gallons of waste so deadly that in 1995 it killed over 300 snow geese that mistakenly landed on it. The snow geese slaughter happened again in late November 2016, when 10,000 of them landed on the liquid and thousands succumbed.” It is a tourist attraction, where you can pay to go see all the pretty colors of the lake, from a safe distance. If you forget to bring a lunch to enjoy at the picnic tables, they have a snack bar. Just don’t mind the horns they have to keep honking to save more wayward birds…
So yeah: what the heck, Montana?
We stopped in Billings for lunch, where we found a wonderful Mexican restaurant called Don Luis. I was driving that afternoon, so I let Sailor Boy tell me all about their sangria (I did take a sip — it was great!).
Later that afternoon we were getting low on gas and started to look for places to fill up. I wanted to stop right away, but listened to my son. He was sure we were fine. It was his car, so he knew it better, but I didn’t like it. So on we drove, through a very quiet, very isolated Native American reservation. No gas stations. Not very many houses. The light on the dash was getting brighter. My anxiety was rising. We finally saw a sign for a town, and I relaxed a bit — until we got there.
We turned in the direction the signs indicated, and were stopped by a road block. Flashing signs warned of local traffic only due to a Covid outbreak.
I asked the man at the barrier if we could just go in and get some gas, but he said absolutely not. In fact, they weren’t even allowing supplies in, so the gas station was empty anyway. Besides, there was a gas station about 20 miles up the road.
Grrr. (at least we had churros leftover from lunch)
I glared at my son, and drive on, carefully. Holding my breath. I breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the station in the distance, and told my son we wouldn’t be taking that risk again. Of course, he felt we were more at risk at this stop, as no one was masked here either. Just miles from an outbreak, that wasn’t comforting.
Back in the car, with old timey Deadwood — and a cocktail — on our minds.
The good news: we got there safely. The bad news: even fewer masks!
This was the only hotel we went to where the staff didn’t wear masks (except for the front desk woman who put hers on when we walked in). I purposely chose Marriott properties for all of our stays, assuming they would be safe. Not so much this one. Ugh. The hotel was nice, but we didn’t linger in the hallways, wouldn’t visit the bar (I really wanted that cocktail), and in the morning refused to enjoy the free breakfast. Dinner that night was nice, but even there: no masks. I hadn’t seen a server’s whole face in almost a year. It was so uncomfortable! I hated it. Even small children started at us for being masked. Clearly South Dakota didn’t believe in science. The town lost out on dollars from us, but it didn’t look like they were hurting. That’s cool. You stay in your state, I’ll stay in mine.
So leaving Deadwood behind was easy! I’m not sure I want to visit when things get better, which made me sad.
The next morning we could’ve driven straight to Minnesota, but we wanted to make a couple of stops. Just a short 40 minutes from Deadwood we reached the Crazy Horse Memorial, then after that visited Mount Rushmore. Both were more impressive than I thought they would be, and I am so glad we stopped. The museum at the Crazy Horse memorial is really amazing. Definitely check it out if you can!
And even though we didn’t find any treasure, or see Nicolas cage, we marveled at the beauty of Mount Rushmore.
And we saw a mountain goat on the side of the road!
We had originally discussed stopping in Darwin, MN, to see the world’s largest ball of twine, but Sailor Boy was way too excited to get home. Grabbed a couple power ball tickets, some road snacks (gotta have Corn Nuts), and some weird wine called Red Ass Rhubarb for later and powered through — with one more detour.
We almost stopped at Wall Drug, but after a dozen miles and what felt like hundreds of signs, we were exhausted by the very idea. Like seeing an overlong preview at the movies (remember those?), I felt like we’d seen it all and didn’t need to spring for the feature.
Instead, we pulled off in Mitchell, South Dakota, and enjoyed the glory that is the Corn Palace.
I love kitsch.
As the hours passed, Sailor Boy became more and more excited. Home was on the distant horizon. He didn’t really recognize anything until we were about 30 minutes from home, but that was okay. Soon he’d be in his bed, with his dog and his dad, and would start the longest stretch of time spent there since joining the Navy five years prior. Pulling into that driveway after three long days of road tripping was wonderful!
We truly were lucky on the drive. No major issues (and since neither of us later broke with Covid, our masks and hand sanitizer seemed to do the trick, thank goodness), no weather, no car trouble.
Flash forward a week and a half, when we drove to Michigan to take the now road-weary car to Singer Girl, who would be using it while it’s rightful owner was overseas. A storm hit the day we had to drive, and our 10 hour drive lasted 14 hours. We barely made it to town in time before restaurants closed, but grabbed dinner and had Singer Girl’s apartment in our sights — when we were rear-ended by some poor college kid who slid on the unplowed roads. After exchanging info, we continued on — only to get stuck in the snow outside her building. With his bum shoulder and my bad elbow, we were a sight trying to push that car free. Later, after dinner in her apartment, we travelled to the hotel — which didn’t have an attached parking garage, so we drug my suitcase through the snow. But only mine, mind you: we left his in Minnesota.
I guess one out of 2 easy road trips ain’t bad.
Not on My Menu
I miss restaurants. I miss bars. I miss being spoiled by terrific servers and amazing chefs. I miss watching other people’s food arrive and having FOMO. I miss bantering with the servers, and wondering if they roll their eyes when they walk away or if they appreciate my wit and charm.
I will wait to go to a restaurant until our Governor says it’s safe for me, the other patrons, and the people who work in them.
I dread opening my browser in the morning to see which wonderful eateries have shuttered their doors forever. My heart breaks when I see a restauranteur lament their life work’s demise. I fear for those servers who are no longer able to pay their bills.
I will buy gift cards. I will order takeout directly from the restraunts, and avoid delievry services that take precious moey fron those who need it most. I will overtip.
I will not patronize restaurants who open in defiance of the Governor’s orders. As reported by Stephanie March of MSP Mag this week, 130 small businesses are discussing doing just that this week. I can only imagine the desperate fear those business owners are feeling. However, I don’t think it is right that they open prematurely.
I do think the government needs to do more to help them, on the local, state and federal levels. Make banks waive mortgage payments for three months (just tack the 3 months onto the end of the loans), so landlords can waive rent. Get some subsidies in there for servers, suppliers, etc. I think it’s pretty clear that if they reopen illegally, they will forfeit any relief. They may also make it worse overall for those in their community who will respectfully suffer through the restrictions.
March’s article quotes the organizer of the coalition as saying if people don’t feel safe, they don’t need to go to the restaurants. True, and fair. Servers do not have that luxury. If a restaurant reopens, they will put themselves at risk to do their jobs. These people do not typically have financial cushions (or if they did, they are long gone). Minimum wage workers do not have the luxury of staying home.
So it is with great sorrow and conflict that I say will not patronize any business opening illegally. I won’t get takeout from there, either. And I may find it really tough to ethically support them next summer when we may be back to a semblance of normal.
I hope we Minnesotans followed the rules enough during this last shutdown to allow Governor Walz to authorize a limited reopening next week. If so, yes: we will go out again. If not, we will be sad, but do our part.
Please, my favorite restaurants, and all those places that haven’t become my favorites yet, don’t risk everyone’s health by opening prematurely in desperation.
Raise Your Glass!
Singer Girl just released her next song!
It’s a bluesy, jazzy song — I wanna have a cocktail and listen to this in front of the fire. But I haven’t had breakfast yet, so that wouldn’t be proper.
Her music is on all platforms, so please download on whichever you prefer, and liste away. Love it like I do? SHARE! FOLLOW!
2020 is full of bad things. Can’t we have a good thing????
Help my girl get her voice heard!
Here’s her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/frankietorress
That is all. Carry on…
…gin and tonic in your hand.
(P.S.: if you missed her last one, here it is!
Back to School, Back to Date Nights!
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.
Afterwards it was dinner at PS Steak, then we stayed the night at the cooler-than-us Hewing Hotel.
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!!!