Tuesday, May 30, 2017

THANKS, US Concordia!

Whelp, looks as though Larry and I no longer have to argue over those rugs! It turns out, according to the friendly ladies at my dental practice, that my dental insurance is now a piece of crap. The company left the Dental Health Alliance last year (unbeknownst to us), because it wanted to decide for itself what the allowable charges for standard dental procedures should be. And then pay 40% of THAT, instead of 40% of what they actually cost.

The upshot being, my new crown and filling will cost me over $1400 out of pocket . My insurance company? It's shelling out a whopping $380.  That's 27%, folks. I feel so ripped off. And stupid.

So, yeah, new rugs for the family room will have to wait.

But no matter, there's no room for rugs in the family room right now, anyway. Theo came home from the Army last Wednesday, with all his stuff. Anna (our newly minted college graduate) has been delivering her things here daily, as her lease is up tomorrow. Remember this picture?

It was beautiful while it lasted.
It doesn't look like that anymore. Not even close. There are bikes parked in front of the fireplace, boxes and rubbermaid containers EVERYWHERE, and we have to climb over things to get to the couch and TV. In other words, we seem to be back to normal down there.


In other news, it keeps raining here. Normally, I would mind; but every day it rains is one more day I don't have to humiliate myself by wearing a bathing suit in public. So I'm sort of at peace with the inordinate amount of precipitation we've been receiving, is what I'm saying. Silver lining and all that...

Tomorrow I can share pictures of the flowers Susie helped me pick out for the front porch and the back deck. I can tell you about Brian's exploding light fixture and Susie's abominable table manners. Not tonight, though, because I have to get to sleep. Tomorrow is a driving day. And we all know how much I LOVE driving.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Okay, something pretty momentous happened in The More, The Messier household yesterday evening. For the first time in over 2 decades, I cooked a lentil dish that received - I kid you not - rave reviews. EVERYONE ate it. And today, for lunch? Unbidden, they ate the leftovers.

In other news, hell has indeed frozen over.

So there you go - anything can happen. This opens up worlds of possibility, doesn't it? Maybe this means that I WILL someday find my waist again. Maybe my children WILL, at some point in their lives, learn to turn off lights and shut doors. Perhaps, even, SOME DAY, Larry and I will manage to agree on area rugs for the newly renovated (hardwood floors!) basement family room.

Actually, that last one? No. No, we will not. Folks, after 26 years of marriage - 26 years of raising children, living together, learning to agree to disagree - we may have finally met our Waterloo.

You see, we need one of the rugs for what we call the fireplace room, which will have some blonde-wood bookcases against the walls, a reading chair or two, the white-brick fireplace, and a large central area left open -- for children to sit and play games on, etc. Hence, the requirement for some comfortable floor covering.

See? NEEDS RUG. Preferably a colorful one...
Now, I have envisioned our walk-out basement family room(s) as an airy, modern-looking space, designed for both TV watching and play. Brian (who actually cares about such things) has even weighed in on the style couch we will eventually (when we win the lottery) buy: a light-colored one with clean lines, modular and up-to-date (as opposed to the dark brown reclining behemoth I dragged home from a neighborhood yard sale a few years ago). We picked a striking color for the walls, to make the white brick hearth pop.

I had a plan, people. And all it would need for completion was a modern, low-pile area rug, with contemporary/geometric design and some color. I spent several hours online, finally spotting a number of reasonably priced possibilities on Wayfair.com. Wanting to achieve consensus, I put several of them on my wish list so Larry could weigh in on the decision.


And this, friends, is where it all fell apart. When I showed Larry what the kids and I had put on the list, he looked -- in a word -- disgusted. It wasn't just a "Oh, how about a different shade of color?" look. Rather, it was a look that almost screamed, "Who are you and how did you get into my house with your perverse home decorating ideas?" Seriously, he couldn't have appeared more put off had I showed him carpets screenprinted with naked Playboy bunnies.

So, yeah, this problem isn't going to be solved any time soon, I'm thinking...but, hey, I guess there's always hope. After all, he DID eat that lentil soup.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Fashion Alert 2017

Bad news on the fashion front, folks! I mean, not as bad as the (thankfully) short-lived bubble shorts phenomenon, but still...it's bad. Look over there to the right (I mean, if you're reading this on desktop - I have no idea where the pictures show up if you're reading this on your phone) - see that shirt? See the problem?

If you don't, you probably aren't short and round. BANDED BOTTOMS, people. Shirts with banded bottom hems are coming back in style. Go on, ladies, emphasize that post-menopausal Buddha belly with a garment that makes it look even rounder!

Good Lord, what's next? The return of Oxford button-down shirts for women? I mean, I sure miss having to check to see if all those buttons stayed closed, don't you?

IMO, the fashion world hates short busty women. HATES.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Stepping It Up

My present from Anna
Have we talked about Mother's Day yet? No? Well, then, let's do that.

Happily, Larry has learned over the years that the Amazon wish list titled "Gifts for Karen" is a pretty good place to discover what I might actually want for a present. So this year he gave me a new Fitbit, because I lost my Fitbit Zip in Salt Lake City.

Which reminds me, I still haven't talked about our two days in Salt Lake City. I sort of skipped over it and meant to get back to it, but I worried that writing even one more post about that train trip might lose me the few dedicated readers I still have.

Anyway, I didn't notice the Fitbit was missing until I was on the train heading to California, so I have no idea where it went. I had planned to replace it with another Zip, but in a burst of whimsy I put the Fitbit Alta on the wish list instead and left it there, while I was trying to rationalize the extra expense.

So Larry saw it and bought it for Mother's Day. It is the prettiest little thing (which you probably can't tell from this lousy photo I took). It buzzes at me when I sit for too long. It does a little Fitbit cheer when I reach my step goal. It tells me my heart rate. AND it tracks my sleep.

I'm gonna start offering photography classes
Let me say right here that I thought this sleep-tracking function was the most frivolous thing ever. And I still think that. Yet, I love this particular feature beyond all reason. In fact, I've become obsessed. Did you know that 20% of your sleep should be deep, versus 25% REM? I'm nowhere near either of those targets, as I tend to spend most of the night in light sleep. No wonder my brain doesn't work right.

Of course, one reason for my sleep deficiencies might be a spouse who snores. I plan to put the Fitbit on Larry's wrist some night while he is asleep, to prove to him that he is waking himself up probably a hundred times a night and not realizing it. He refuses to believe me.

Technology is very useful in settling marital spats. Although I do feel bad, using the gift he gave me against him.

The other thing that happened on Mother's Day was Anna's graduation party. We were so busy getting ready for the party and then entertaining guests that, as the day wore on, the fact that it was Mother's Day sort of slipped my mind. So when David called in the late afternoon, I reacted as I always do: "What's wrong?" I demanded.

People, he NEVER calls.

When he didn't answer right away, I followed up with an almost frantic "Is everything all right?" Myriad possibilities were dashing through my head, because I'm good at catastrophizing like that.

"Well," my engineering offspring deadpanned, "I thought it was customary on Mother's Day to phone one's mother."

Hey, at least he knows I wasn't waiting around by the phone all day, right?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Time To Bug Out

Ah, it's that time of year when we struggle not to turn on the AC until June. Well, I struggle, anyway. The kids and Larry would gladly make this place a refrigerator from May 1 until October, because they don't understand the value of suffering. Or money.

And really, the heat's not bad, yet - but the humidity is rising. My science-y offspring tell me humidity has something to do with water vapor in the air, but you and I know the truth: it is all the devils in hell coming up here to suck the life force from our bodies.

And this spring? These life-sucking devils seem to have brought some friends.


Now, I already knew that our region experiences Brood X, which is this massive influx of cicadas every 17 years. The last event was 2004, and - as luck would have it - our family was living elsewhere that spring. We were tucked away safely north of this plague, in Rhode Island, while Larry went to the Naval War College. Every morning that spring, I woke up and thanked the powers that be that this was the year we were not living in what was apparently Cicada Central.

I called my friend back home at one point (because people still called more than texted back then) to ask if it were as bad as the Internet was making it look. "Hang on," she said. "Let me walk inside. I can't hear you above all the buzzing."

So, yeah, it was bad. At that point I made a vow NOT to be in our area during the spring of 2021, when this phenomenon would re-occur. I am not interested in masses of creepy bugs. I don't care how fascinating it is. They make me want to throw up.

Where am I going with this? Well, I was outside a few nights ago, talking to a neighbor in front of her house, and she pointed to the ground. "Look," she said. "There's another one."

"What is it?" I asked, in disgust, as this wet, slug-like creature oozed out of the dirt and started wobbling around on definitely not slug-like legs.

"Cicadas," she said. "They're coming up everywhere. It's driving the dog crazy."

That's right - here we are in 2017 and it appears a whole bunch of cicadas did not get the memo - you know, the one telling them to stay underground another 4 years, while I make travel plans? No one knows just how bad this influx will be or why exactly it is happening - not even all the science-y people who think that humidity is water vapor. All I know is that more and more cicadas and cicada shells are showing up everywhere, and it resembles nothing so much as an alien invasion from a planet populated with giant bugs.

If this gets any worse, I am so out of here. Anyone have a guest room? For two - Susie says she is coming with me.

Monday, May 15, 2017

"Seasonal" Means Nothing In Our House

So, the weekend was sort of busy, what with working at the yoga center and Mother's Day and ANNA GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE.

Anna gave me these. See? NICE.
Remember Anna? 10 years ago, she was the teen girl so many of you loved reading about, filled as she was with contempt and loathing for her parents and siblings and the plebeian life into which she had mistakenly been born. Actually, she might still be filled with contempt and loathing, but - being an adult - she hides it better. And, hey, that's good enough for me.

Anyway, Anna (and other teen girls like her) was the one we all gleefully concocted the "Getting a Clue" curriculum for, lo those many years ago. She seems to have passed with flying colors, having lived on her own and worked and gone to school for the past several years; and for that Larry and I will always be thankful. Also, she's turned out to be a pretty nice person, so that's always a plus.

So we had a little party for her. Of course, "a little party" meant that we spent all day Saturday and then Sunday morning going through our pre-party ritual of cleaning up the house enough to make it presentable for outsiders. Theo was here, too (I TOLD you the weekend was busy); he is about to detach from the military, after 4 years in, so any spare time Larry and I had? Was spent dispensing unwanted advice for his future.

BIG CHANGES. Gosh, these kids all used to be so little.

Where was I? Oh, yes, cleaning up. So, some time in the middle of our housecleaning frenzy, Larry said, "Can we do something about this snowman?" And I thought, "WHAT?"

I mean, come on, hadn't I finally rid our home of all winter holiday flotsam and jetsam? Hadn't I, after many tries, finally tracked down the last bit of Christmas/Chanukah decorations? Haven't I been humiliated enough?

Outside temp reads 64. He should be melting.
I looked where Larry was pointing, and there it was: Susie's paper snowman, which she asked me to leave up until the end of winter, and, well, it's May now. He was prominently mounted on the wall next to the thermostat, where (in theory) I should have noticed him, as I check the outside temperature every single day. But, no, I had no idea that snowman was there.

And, yes, he is still hanging up there on our wall. Susie likes him.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


That's how many emails I deleted in one fell swoop today, 9861.

So, uh, if I was supposed to get back to someone and you don't hear from me? That's why. Also, this reminds me that I have never heard back from upnitestx, who won the Yarn Harlot book from me, lo, many months ago and sent me her address, only I deleted her email and had to ask for her address again.

I never received it. Either she quit reading this blog in disgust, or she decided she didn't want to have any further dealings with someone as disorganized as me. I don't know, but I'll try again. I'm not proud.

UPNITESTX: please send me your address. I promise I won't lose it. Knitting Rules has been sitting on my desk for, oh, 3 months now and I'd really like to get it to you!

I just went and checked my email to see how it would feel to see only one or two messages in there, and it was still completely empty, and I got this weird, panicky feeling, like I had lost something. Or like I had completely ceased to exist.

Empty, like my soul....and my photography abilities

No emails, no cards, no insurance policy. No Zuzu's petals...

So maybe being organized is not for me...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Time In A Bottle

Today I spent assiduously avoiding my email, because really some people are NOT NICE when they get behind a keyboard. Oh, not blog readers, you all are wonderful. But in the real part of my life, where I have real responsibilities, sometimes people write emails saying things they would never say to my face. And I'm tired of it. The drama, it's exhausting. And completely unnecessary.

Also, my water heater still doesn't work and I told the company that installed it I want a new one, and they're all, "Problem? We don't see a problem." Which was totally not the right response.

So I looked for something I could have some control over today, and I ended up cleaning out the 2 kitchen cabinets that are always full of stuff. FULL. Every time I try to put something in them, I can't, because STUFF. So I pulled everything out and found several superannuated items that could be discarded.

Did I say "several"? I meant, A LOT.

See that picture, to the left there? From left to right, those items expired in 2015, I-don't-even-know, 2014, and (drum roll please) 2007.

We moved here in 2007. Although, actually, I think I inherited that curry powder from a neighbor who moved away in 2012. Not that that makes any more sense, really - I mean, that means 5 years ago I accepted a jar of curry powder that was already 5 years past expiration date. And then I kept it in my cabinet ANOTHER 5 years. And I never used it - not even once.

Look for me on "Hoarders" any day now.

That salady-looking stuff, second from the left, was foisted on me by Auntie Kate, who bought it from the gift shop when we all went to Monticello. Let me see...that was back in April of 2012. So, yeah, I'm tossing it. Sorry, Auntie Kate! Don't give me things!

I've never used Old Bay seasoning. Maybe that was from the neighbor who moved, also?

Anyway, these were the top contenders, but a lot of other stuff went also - for example, a rubbermaid container of tapioca and another rubbermaid container of caraway seeds, which I think used to reside in my fridge. 2 little jars of poppy seeds. Some essence of coconut whatever that Larry must have bought during one of his baking binges. An open packet of Jello.

I was thinking it was odd I had all this junk in there, considering how thoroughly I cleaned out the cabinets during our pantry moth invasion, which hey, wasn't that long ago. Then I looked up on this blog when that had occurred and it turns out it was, oh, 7 years ago.

Feels like yesterday.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

I Don't Speak Very Well For The Trees

 I stepped outside today and saw our rhododendron bush blooming, so I know it must be May, but boy, it's cold! And this pic of the bush (which is truly magnificent, because I have never touched it with my guaranteed black thumb) doesn't even do it justice; but I couldn't snap the full view from the front, because that angle is now blocked by a completely dead (really, most sincerely dead) dogwood tree, which expired without any warning whatsoever.

Actually, the tree did look a tad sickly last August, when we came back from Acadia; but we chalked that up to the abnormally dry summer we had had. "It'll come back," we assured each other. "Next spring, you'll see." Only it didn't, so there it stands, ruining our view of our gorgeous rhododendron and presenting a grim reminder of the consequences of horticultural ignorance.

Hey, I know - let's look at some before and after pictures!



I don't know what I did wrong with this tree, since I have benignly neglected it with the same non-zeal as I have applied to our flourishing rhododendron; but I am obviously a murderer of all things good and beautiful. It's a special talent of mine.

In other news, on this blog's Facebook page, I posted a link to a house that is for sale in Canada. People, that link got more views than anything I have ever written myself. At the risk of sounding like a purveyor of clickbait, go find out why! (Really, I don't want to spoil it. Just check it out.)

(Also, trigger warning: CLOWNS)

Monday, May 08, 2017

This, That, And The Other Thing

In news you can use, THIS certainly sounds healthy. Nurses LOVE Cinnabon, I'm sure. In the future, I expect to see similar giveaways, such as free Netflix for a week for librarians and maybe complimentary Uber rides for physical trainers.

Also, a new tick disease! And this one only takes 15 minutes to transmit, so, yes, we ARE doomed, thanks for asking. If you're looking for me, I'll be busy inventing an outdoor shower for my front porch that soaks the kids with DEET each time they step outside.

Results may vary
And, it's happening again - I am being lured once more by the siren call of a new lentil recipe. I hate lentil soup. My family hates lentil soup. Yet every once in a while, I'll become convinced I've stumbled across a recipe (sometimes by another blogger, sometimes just in the newspaper) that will change all of our minds about lentils. I'll let you all know how this one goes.

My having to drive Rachel to a late-night cast party on Saturday turned out better than expected. 2 (2!) friends actually contacted me and said, "I'm up late all the time - do you want me to get her for you?" Which offers I declined because, hey, they were above and beyond (one of the friends doesn't even HAVE kids); but this made me recall that a friend of mine lives near where the party was being held and, hey, she tends to stay up late, too. So I ended up going to her house and hanging out with her and her husband and having a great time. It pays to have friends who are night owls, is what I'm trying to say here.

And then I picked up Rachel and she spent the ride home telling me how great the host house was. "It's so BIG! And CLEAN!"

"Hey," I interrupted her. "I'm sure they threw all their belongings upstairs in the bedrooms, just like we do when we host a party."

"Yeah, but they had all these nice paintings on the walls and the furniture looked nice, and..."

The kid just wouldn't stop. She was apparently very impressed by the fact that these people didn't assemble all their furniture themselves and that their wall decor consists of things other than framed pictures their own kids painted in art class. It's frustrating, because I've told the kids over and over that our townhome is larger and nicer than dwellings in most of the rest of the world; I've told them that amenities like central air and on-demand hot water are actually luxuries, and we are lucky to have them; I've TOLD THEM that we live better than most people have lived since the beginning of time. And I want them to appreciate that.

My kids don't know from yurts

But, being human, all they know is what they see; and in our neck of the woods, they see monstrously large houses with, like, 4 people living in them and seriously I do not know what people do with all that space and how they can afford to heat/AC it. You know, a few months ago I took Susie with me while I dropped Brian off at a friend's house for some party and we walked him to the door so I could introduce myself to the parents.

Now, I'm used to this area, I'm used to large houses, some of my best friends LIVE in large houses, but even so...I had to keep my jaw from dropping as I stood in the soaring foyer of this particular abode and chatted with the parents for a few minutes. I sensed Susie at my elbow, however, taking it all in, including - I am guessing - the multiple staircases in the immediate vicinity, the double story family room with a stone fireplace large enough to roast a goat in, etc. On the way back out to the car, Susie said, "Mommy? Standing in that house?" (in a tone of wonder) "I felt like Maria in The Sound of Music."

So, yeah, maybe one kid gets it.

[Lentil soup image: NYT]
[Yurt image: Latitude News]

Friday, May 05, 2017

In Which I Repeat Myself. A Lot.

His dad is very understanding
I worked the concession table last night at my daughter's drama production of Beauty and the Beast. Hey, I thought, why not? Everyone needs to do their part. How hard can it be?

Reader, I messed up the popcorn machine. Lumiere's dad had to clean out all the burned, stuck-on kernels and fix the stirrer thing. Mrs. Potts' mom relegated me to selling just the candy bars and (already cooked) pizza. Also, soda - I'm good at soda.

In other news, it's raining like the dickens out there this morning, which means I don't have to go outside and do my pretend jogging today. Instead I get to sit in my nice cozy den and blog at you. Which beats doing what I should be doing right now, which is paying this enormous bill it turns out I owe to the IRS. They sent me a nice letter yesterday explaining to me exactly how I messed up on my 2015 tax returns and telling me they want their extra money right away.

Cheaper than physical therapy
But, hey, I managed to save $50 on FitFlops at Nordstrom Rack yesterday, so there's that.

I know - it looks crazy to spend $60 on a pair of flipflops, right? But at one point, several years ago, these shoes were all I could walk in without pain. Their arch support, their cushioning, their microwobbleboard technology (whatever the heck that is) - they saved me. I have been a devotee of the FitFlop brand ever since. I WILL BE BURIED IN MY FITFLOPS.

This is not a sponsored post, by the way. I simply love me some FitFlops.

[Aaaand, I just noticed I already talked about my expensive FitFlop habit in this post here. Apparently, I am becoming one of those old people who repeat themselves a lot.]

For something completely different, let's talk about my coffee table, shall we? It's GONE. Larry says he asked me before he took it to Restore, but I don't remember.

I never even got to say good-bye.

We bought this table (and its two matching end tables) in pristine condition almost 20 years ago, from an elderly gentleman who was downsizing. He must have assumed they were going to a good home. These pieces were 40 years old, solid maple, and they gleamed. They looked as if they had been built just the day before, not almost half a century prior. They were the nicest furniture we had ever owned.

And then? We brought them home. To a house that included 3 young children, all of whom were captivated by the wide gleaming surface of the table, a surface wide enough to slide across on their stomachs. Whee!

Unfortunately, one of those children was wearing a belt. With a metal buckle. So, not 24 hours after these cherished, well-cared-for marvels of wood craftsmanship entered our house, we had a 6-inch gash down the center of the biggest one. And it only got worse from there.

There it is, in all it's tarnished glory (ignore the yarn)

A belated adieu, my derelict friend! You served us well all these years. May you go to someone who can not only restore you to your former splendor but also keep you that way. We didn't really deserve you, we know that now.

[Aaaand, after realizing I was repeating myself about FitFlops, I searched on "coffee table" in this blog and realized, yup, I've already talked about that, too. I may have to hang up my blogging hat at this point. Sorry.]

I have no idea why, but I seem to form emotional attachments to my furniture.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

A Lot Of Drama

Party Train!
As you may have guessed by now, Susie and I finally made it home. Let me note here that the train from Chicago to DC was the ONLY ONE where the club car attendant deemed it necessary to announce that, while there was beer and wine for sale on the train, passengers should remember that it was a limited supply and that they should leave enough for their fellow riders. He also informed us that anyone who became over-intoxicated would be escorted off the train at the next stop.

I guess people heading into DC these days feel the need to become completely inebriated. I wonder why?

Poor things - they don't know they're doomed
While we were gone, spring happened. I wandered around the neighborhood for 2 days exclaiming, "It's so green!" And "Look at all the trees!" The Farmers Market opened right after our return, so I was able to buy some of the plants I'm going to end up killing this summer. Susie was just glad to get back to a full fridge and not having to pull her suitcase around strange cities for miles and miles.

As soon as we returned, Theater Arts Madness started. Rachel was at rehearsal for Beauty and the Beast until 10 every night that week. Then there were the weekend shows and Sign-Up Geniuses appearing in my email every other minute to cajole me into working shifts at the concession stand and the ticket office and I don't know what all.

You know, my hat is off to all you non-homeschooling parents. How do you DO all this? I have to admit, I was looking forward to the fact that the last performance would be this Saturday evening - that is, until I saw today's email, which cheerfully announced that the cast party would be held in the next town over from 10 PM until midnight on Saturday night.


Are Theater Arts parents vampires or something? I don't know about anyone else, but I have a packed day this Sunday, and the thought of staying up late to retrieve Rachel from a party Saturday night makes me want to cry. I tried foisting the job off on Larry, but he reminded me he would be getting up even earlier than me on Sunday, to drive Rachel to some 5K for Lyme thing she is running in.

The sad one had to do the late pick-up, I'm guessing

Teens are exhausting, is what I am trying to say. Or else I'm just too old for this - that's a distinct possibility.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Look, It Was A Long Trip, Okay?

Oh, my gosh, you poor people - just one more post about that Amtrak trip and then I'll stop, really.

Anyone here?

Bison statues are a thing in Montana, apparently
Oh, well, we left Seattle, I avoided killing someone on the way to Spokane, and we had the best car attendant EVER so I gave her the fingerless mitts I finished knitting before we got to St. Paul. Also, we crossed Montana, including Glacier National Park, and then crossed North Dakota in the dark, so I didn't see ANY of it. We arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota, at 8 AM, exhausted. But did that stop me from saying, "Hey, our AirBnB is only half a mile from the station! We should just pull our luggage there!"?

No, it did not.

I uttered those words to poor Susie, completely disregarding all the times that "just pulling our luggage there" ended badly on this trip. Luckily for her, it started to rain before we left the station. "Looks like we'll have to call Uber!" she chirped. Heavens, they get tech-savvy early, don't they?

So we Ubered to the bookstore where the key for our apartment was kept (and let me just give a grateful shout-out to the owner of this apartment, who let our travel-weary selves check in several hours early) and then we set out for the place itself, which was only half a block away, only we went in the wrong direction, in the pouring rain, with our suitcases, and had to text the owner (who I think was somewhere in Europe?)...let's just say this whole process should have been way more uneventful than it actually was.

But we finally got there. Now, understand that we had 2 days to spend in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and I had a full list of things I wanted us to see. Not a minute to waste! But the moment we set foot in that comfy apartment and let go of our wet luggage, it seemed like a great idea to spend our rainy morning doing absolutely NOTHING but washing our clothes and watching The Dick Van Dyke Show on the Netflix service thoughtfully provided by the owner.

This was a very good decision, coming as it did after 10 days of travel that included 4 different cities. I highly recommend this approach.

Better than a museum
So we lounged on the cute little couch and watched Rob and Laura Petrie (and really, wasn't that fitting, watching Mary Tyler Moore while in the Twin Cities?), until our clothes were done and the rain tapered off; and then, savvy travelers that we are, we figured out the bus system and took a bus (SO EASY AND SO CHEAP! I LOVE YOU, MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL!) to Grand Avenue, which has shops and things, because Susie is allergic to museums. We saw gorgeous old Midwestern houses, and we stopped in the yarn shop, and then of course the ice cream shop, because there is no sense in visiting a city if you're not going to eat its ice cream. The whole time, I kept my eyes peeled for Garrison Keillor, but he never showed up.

The ice cream shop had a huge display on its wall with photos of a visit there by President Obama in 2014. So I have walked in the steps of greatness, people, and I have even eaten the same ice cream. That is what travel can do for you.

There was an adjoining pizza shop, and we decided to order a calzone and some salad to take back to our lovely Netflix-endowed apartment for dinner. The owner, it turns out, was a genuine Minnesotan man. I know this because he spoke EXACTLY like the guy on Prairie Home Companion who imitates the genuine Minnesotan man. Truly, I had always thought this imitation was an exaggeration, but I can now tell you that no, it is not.

Either that, or this pizza guy just puts it on for tourists. I don't know.

It's real
The next day? It rained. Again. So I tossed my list of tourist sites in Minneapolis out the window, as it were, and we grabbed a (CHEAP! EASY!) bus for Mall of America. This turned out to also be a very good decision. See? 10 days of travel, and I become a pro. And, for the record, there is indeed an amusement park in the center of the Mall of America (see photographic proof to the left). Even though everyone had told us this, Susie and I were still dumbfounded to actually see this 8th Wonder of the World.

Much to Susie's satisfaction there were 2 (count them, 2!) full food courts, plus several candy/chocolate/fudge stores, to enjoy. There was also an aquarium (which we didn't go into, because Susie is allergic to those, also - anything educational, really). And a mini-golf course. The top floor had a movie theater and what looked like the adult version of a Chuckie Cheese (essentially, a nice bar with lots of games and not-so-fabulous prizes, and really, isn't decent alcohol just what Chuckie Cheese needs?), with the added enticement of a bowling alley in the back.

There were a lot of these beautiful contraptions.
This was, in short, the perfect place to spend a rainy day in a strange city. The icing on the cake was the overabundance of decent elevators, centrally located, to transport us from floor to floor. Susie has a long-standing aversion to moving staircases, so to be in a mall where we didn't have to hunt for a smelly service elevator in the back of a department store was a definite plus.

According to Susie's Fitbit (I lost mine back in Salt Lake City somewhere), we covered 4 miles walking around that mall. So, great food, great exercise, no forced escalator use - it earned a 2 thumbs up (does anyone even say that anymore?) from both of us. And then we went home to our AirBnB, packed for our train trip home, and enjoyed us some more watching of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Really, another darn near perfect day...