Fair Fun

Last Friday, Chris took me to the fair. And we had a BLAST. We got wristbands so we could do unlimited rides and made good use of that. A few years ago I said I would never do rides again because they had made me so nauseous but Chris convinced me to try them again, and I enjoyed them!

We did the tower drop twice. I love this ride – you ratchet up, slowly, slowly, looking out over the sprawl of fair rides and RVs, coming eye level with a helicopter, filled with a growing sense of dread
with no warning you plummet almost to the ground. I always scream.

The Ring of Fire (hanging upsidedown) and the Remix (whirling around) made me feel pretty dizzy and sick to my stomach, but I felt better after I ate some tamales from El Carambas (go figure!)

And it wouldn’t be a fair for me without a ride on the Ferris Wheel:


Chris and I walked around the buildings and checked out the quilts, flower arrangements and the vegetables and fruits. In previous years I have sweltered during the fair, so this time I was wearing shorts and a Tshirt. Perfect for July, right?

Wrong! It was like 50 degrees. I was shivering and had goosebumps. We ducked into the commercial tent for warmth.., and ended up with a Costco membership!!

We ate a tasty Minneapple fried apple pie. So tasty!!! Then we stopped by the petting zoo on our way out, where Chris’s picture with a goat got “photo bombed” by a lady in pink:


Afterwards we headed to Costco to enjoy our new membership, our “souvenir,” and gloat over all the things we could buy.

The fair is great for a number of reasons. It is a rare, once-a-year celebration of place, where farmers and 4H-ers mingle with the “cityfolk” and Rochester’s agricultural heritage is on display. In addition, the fair is perfect for families of all ages. Kids pet the animals and make sand art, young people ride the rides, older people listen to music at the beer garden, and everyone watches the tractor pull.

There are many other fairs in Minnesota, but the best fair is your own!

“Dogernity” Leave

The past week and a half have been like our “dog-ernity” leave as we have adjusted to doubling the size of our household and Duke and Earl have adjusted to a new home. Thankfully there have been no sleepless nights, 2 am feedings, scares, injuries or surgeries (knock on wood!) Just lots of wonderful doggy time with our precious canines.

Last weekend Chris and I worked opposite shifts, so while the dogs got to experience the benefits of having people around nearly 24 hours a day, we scarcely saw each other all weekend. One of those times was our “date” at the hospital cafeteria (which was really fun but not really a date). Just like old times, Chris is looking mischievous while drawing some chemical on a napkin.


Today the doggies met their first friend beyond the the neighborhood, a Samoyed that belongs to one of my Bible study friends. But they’ve been on lots of walks, at least one or two a day, and played with many of the neighbors kids and dogs, and of course galloped around the yard with each other. Earl loves to attack Duke and send fur flying (nothing else though – they’re padded better than football players). Here’s an action shot – as usual, Earl is tearing ahead, and Duke is trotting along behind.

Doesn’t he look poodly with all those curls?!


Speaking of fur flying, I feel like all this fluff has to be useful for something. I could vacuum every day and still not get it all up. Surely we could use it to stuff quilts or something?!

I love having dogs.

1) They make me exercise. I don’t think I have ever walked this much, this regularly.

2) Duke and Earl are always happy to see us and give us lots of unconditional love and doggy kisses.

3) We now know that we are competent human beings that can take care of and keep something else alive.

4) Finally, when other people are showing me pictures of their pets/kids/nieces/nephews… I have pictures to show them!!

5) They help us meet our neighbors. Instant conversation point! “Duke, Earl, leave it. Don’t eat the toy poodle. Oh, her name is Pepsi, and you’re Elaine? Earl, stop! By the way, I’m Ariel. Duke! Stop sniffing! Sit! Sit! Good boy.”

All right, well maybe “meet” is a strong word.

Pets are a big investment of time, money, and energy, but they are totally worth it. You can’t calculate the return on this investment because it’s companionship, and you can’t put a price on that. Yay for doggies!

Dog Days of Summer

Minnesota has taken a turn for the miserably hot. The last week has been toasty for us – 80’s, 90’s, humid, full sun, the kind of day you stay inside to stay cool. The Romans associated this sultry time of year with Sirius, the dog star, leading to the term “dog days of summer.” But for us these have been dog days in another way.

We have been thinking about getting dogs since before we got married. Chris is a natural with dogs, and I like… certain dogs. When we were growing up, we had the sweetest fluffiest collie named Buck. Of course, he got old and died and I was very sad. We also had a short-haired collie named Mariah who liked to jump the fence and run away. A lot. I think she gave me “doggie abandonment issues” and made me nervous to entrust my heart to another canine.

But everyone loves my parents’ golden retriever, Shadrack. He’s sweet, affectionate, and gentle… only barks when he falls in an empty swimming pool and can’t get out (so he’s not the smartest)… and he’s pretty!


Chris knew some wonderful golden retrievers when he was growing up as well, Declan, Delaney and many others.

So when we found out we could get a house we began to look at dogs on the Minnesota rescue, Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota or RAGOM. They don’t just have goldens; in fact, we had our hearts fixed on one that was basically a black lab when, lo and behold, his foster family adopted him.

As soon as we moved in, we started the process, which involved a very thorough application and a home visit. We passed and then went on vacation for a week. On our way back Chris saw the posting for two golden retrievers that the foster wanted to adopt together. Of course, we couldn’t meet them right away. We had our friends’ dogs for a week… and then went to Black River Falls… and the foster family was out of town…

Finally last week we went to meet the doggies and see if they would be a good fit. And this is what happened:


We brought home Duke and Earl on Saturday and are really enjoying them. They make us get up early, take us on lots of walks, and give us lots of doggie love. They are two big, fluffy, beautiful golden retrievers, sweet and eager to please. Duke looks like he’s part poodle because he’s ultra curly and has a pom-pom end on his tail; he’s more chill and submissive and will go lie in his crate when he gets tired. Earl looks like a teddy bear or an Ewok, follows us everywhere, pants a lot, and is the last to lie down and first to get up. I think he’s also a little smarter. They are both really fun to have around and give my cleaning a lot more purpose. I like to see progress in my cleaning and there is always progress to be made when you are chasing down gobs of fluffy golden retriever hair.

Earl has already eaten a few things that we consider inedible, but – sigh – dogs will be dogs!

Wild Goose Chase… And Other Attractions

Last week my sister Anna visited us for a few days. We had a great time seeing the Rochester sights. On Tuesday we visited Niagara Cave, about an hour south of Rochester. This underground system was discovered when a couple pigs fell into a sinkhole about 80 years ago. We climbed down a long, long staircase into the damp depths and followed our guide to the waterfall, then along a circituous route to see some living cave rocks. Carlsbad this is not, but for a cave in the middle of a field in Minnesota… it’s neat! Warning: lots of walking and stair-climbing involved.

Adjoining the cave is the basic putt-putt course, which Anna and I also tried out.


Anna and I by the putt-putt course

After the long drive home, we curled up and watched Men In Black 3. The next day, Anna and I did what I call the Wild Rochester Goose Chase, taking photographs with the various goose statues around town. Back in 2009, the Art Center sponsored this brilliant project called The Goose Is Loose and now there are “art geese” at important Rochester locales all over town. Here is our first stop at the Olmsted County History Center:


We took pictures with about 6 of the 18, so there are a lot left to go. One of the most beautiful is located in the patient cafeteria in Gonda, made with the help of the Mayo engineering department and with glass taken from Mayo construction site work. The “Goose Chase” a great way to spend a day and you can drive all over the city (though many are within a reasonable radius of downtown). We were so dedicated that we went all the way to the airport for a picture. The map for goose locations is here. (Note: the RCTC and UCR geese are not where it says they are. Also, the Custom Alarm goose is outside.)

I had a great time with Anna and look forward to completing the photo Goose Chase with my next willing victim – I mean, visitor. Who’s with me?!!

Black River Falls

Last weekend we went to visit Chris’s mentor, a family physician in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. As usual when we visit them, we had an AMAZING time. It’s basically like going to a resort, between the fun activities, amazing food and good conversation. I’m so thankful for these friends.

We had an amazing night-time horse ride to start off the weekend. Early the next morning, a few of us went to “Boot Camp” and rode bikes up and down some fearsome hills. I haven’t ridden my bike for a month and I’m out of “bikeshape” but I still had a blast, especially when the trainer rewarded us all with some coffee at the end. She knows how to motivate… We went for a kayak down the Black River and then cooled off by splashing in a shallow creek at the take-out. Then after quesadillas and margaritas, we took another horseback ride.

20130710-172015.jpg Riders!

After a late night playing bridge and other card games, we ate waffles for breakfast and then went to a top secret rope swing in an undisclosed location. Along the way we picked up trash (or were ready to, anyway) and fended off ticks and mosquitoes.




The trash collectors in full gear

Wow, what a weekend! I deeply enjoyed our time there. Black River Falls is beautiful – rolling green hills, deep woods, the striking tea-colored water of the river – and there is so much to do, especially when you’re with someone who knows the area.

We didn’t visit Lake Wazee this time, but if you happen to be in the area that’s another great place to go – a quarry turned gem-like lake set among sheer gray cliffs. Stunning.
Thanks again to our wonderful hosts, you are the epitome of hospitality.

A Visitor!

Last week, my amazing grandmother visited our new house. She was the first occupant of our official guest bedroom. No longer do our visitors have to sleep on a couch, a sleeping bag, or a deflating air mattress. Now they get a full size bed, a dresser and side table. In fact, they get their own floor with a bathroom. Visit away!

The night that she arrived we listened to the Carillon concert – they happen 3 times a week and are very impressive. We also showed her the gorgeous Plummer building in downtown Rochester. On Tuesday, we headed for Lanesboro. Granny is one of the few people who have read my novel and Lanesboro is a partial inspiration for the fictional setting so I showed her this beautiful town, nestled in the bluff. We ate at Pedal Pushers – Granny had liver and onions and I had a delightful fish taco. (I tried liver for the first time and must say I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan!) Unfortunately the hodge-podge history museum was closed but the art center was open. What a talented community!

We had planned to visit another winery in Spring Valley but due to roadwork decided to visit the Fillmore County history museum instead. It was excellent; a lot of great period pieces. I’ll admit the mannequins were faintly creepy. But it was certainly worth a visit!!

In the evening I mowed the lawn all by myself and did a respectable job as Granny cheered me on. It was actually kinda fun in a purposeful task-oriented way but don’t tell Chris I said that 😉 Then we took Granny to the Honkers game for some hot dogs, beer and baseball. Of course Granny and I HAD to get a shot with the Honkers’ mascot Slider.

I won’t discuss the game because it was a heartbreaker but the Honkers (and their fans) are always fun to watch.

On Wednesday we arrived at Plummer House and discovered it was open just on Wednesdays for a self-guided tour. Finally some scheduling luck!

We had a great visit and I worked on a hematology floor the next couple days. I had the same patients and really good floats. Our floor overlooked the fireworks on Silver Lake, and I caught a couple glimpses of the spectacle. Yay America!

Granny and me by “Silver Falls”

Granny and me with Slider