Washing our hands of a low performer

We had to evict a resident from our house today.

She wasn’t pulling her weight. Let’s just say, she wasn’t able to get hot anymore. Maybe she was undergoing menopause, if you catch my drift. Given her role around here, “not getting hot” just wasn’t acceptable. My Beloved tried to rehabilitate her, but the $33 thermal regulator or igniter — or whatever we invested in — didn’t work (I don’t know the difference between a wrench and a channel lock either but thank goodness, my Beloved does). To be fair, I think we bought her used and fixed her up at least once in the past nine years, but having her go kaput now still was disappointing.

So we gave her the heave-ho to make room for a new resident with a hot box. Recently, we had been planning to acquire a much bigger box of sorts, but that plan was thwarted. So, on our eighth wedding anniversary, we settled for buying a new dryer.

In 95% humidity, we dragged the old dryer out of the house and installed the new one. Fun. Happy anniversary, honey.

The dried-up old dryer is on the curb, thumbing for a ride. Good riddance, girl.

dryer hitchhiking

A sweet sports movie serves up perfect excuse to escape July’s heat

There’s the underdog athlete (or athletes). Impossible odds. The coach who needs redemption. The funny supporting characters. At some point, all is lost. Then the music rises and our hero triumphs (cue the tears).

I’m a sucker for the heartwarming sports dramedy. It’s a formula, I know. But I love them. I watched another one of them last night — Eddie the Eagle — and I was reminded I’m a sucker for sports cliches. So be it.

If you are, too, here’s a short list of can’t-be-missed sweet sports movies:

 

  • Eddie the Eagle: A Brit with more perseverance than talent strives to be an Olympian.
  • Million Dollar Arm: A hack sport agent turns a couple of Indian cricket players into baseball stars.
  • Cool Runnings: A ragtag bunch of Jamaicans form an Olympic bobsled team — even though there is no snow in Jamaica. I could watch this one once a year, just for John Candy.
  • The Rookie: An over-the-hill high school teacher gives professional baseball another shot — and lands a minor league contract.
  • A League of Their Own: An all-female baseball team playing during World War II seeks redemption. Bonus: Tom Hanks’ line “There’s no crying in baseball.”

All of the above are based on true stories, which makes them all the better in my mind (I just love nonfiction). But if you’re up for a little fantasy and baseball (only a rube would hate baseball), these two movies are great, too:

  • Rookie of the Year: In a freak result of elbow surgery, a 12-year-old becomes a Major League Baseball pitcher.  
  • Angels in the Outfield: This one breaks the mold a little bit, because the main character — a kid from a broken home — is not the athlete but a fan. Throw in a little of the supernatural, and you’ve got a hit. Tears, every time.

Travel Tuesday: A little piece of paradise called Omiš, Croatia

I’ve been half way around the world and back since my last blog post.

And I’m a different person.

Oh, not actually a different person. I’m still a 5-foot-10, fitness-obsessed, God-fearing native Minnesotan whose current address is Illinois.

But I’m different.

“In a strange place, you become more fully evident,” writes author Andrew Solomon in Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change. Solomon describes, as summarized by editor Pilar Guzman in a recent issue of Condé Nast Traveler, “how immersing yourself in a foreign environment heightens an awareness of your own otherness — not just as a stranger in a strange land, but who you really are at home too.”

That, in a sentence, is the plot summary of this blog, Minnesota Transplant. I was born in Minnesota and grew up there. I will always be a Minnesotan, even when I live in another state and visit another country. But living in another state and visiting another country informs my sense of self. Every day, every journey, I learn who I am and who I am not.

This is the gift of traveling — learning not only about another place, a different culture, other people, but also about ourselves. Sometimes we learn how great we are. But often we learn how small.

Seeing as it’s Travel Tuesday here at Minnesota Transplant, let me tell you all about my trip. Or at least a part of it. I’ll save some bits and pieces for another Tuesday (or two or three).

In June, my Beloved, my stepchildren and I enjoyed an epic, once-in-a-lifetime type of trip to Europe. We visited Dubrovnik and spent some time in Barcelona, but we lived in Omiš (that caron above the s (the little v symbol) renders Omiš pronounced as oh-mish, not oh-miss).

It’s a little town of about 15,000 in Croatia on the Adriatic Sea.

Croatia? You look confused. Who goes to Croatia?

Croatia, a mostly coastal country once a part of Yugoslavia and embroiled in the Bosnian War in the 1990s, was never on my bucket list either, but as is the case with many things in life, it’s who you know that gets you were you go. My Beloved knows a guy whose parents grew up there, and the guy owns property there he willing opens up to special people. We, apparently, are special.

Never turn down an offer for a free place to stay, especially when that place is on a beach.

A “beach” to a native Minnesotan is a different thing than it is to anyone who lives near an ocean. A beach in Minnesota is sandy if you’re lucky. If the water is not muddy, it’s probably green and hopefully free of weeds and leaches. And to be honest, the sand is often just a stretch of land between the road and a good place to fish.

A beach in Croatia looks like this:

better beach

There is this impossibly clear, frequently calm aquamarine water against a backdrop of craggy mountains.

Get yourself up the mountain, and you are stunned by vistas like this:

mountain view

Wikipedia describes the Omiš Riviera as a place that “stretches for 12 miles along a coast of exceptional beauty, with many perfect pebble, sandy beaches, bays, steep cliffs and a crystal clear sea.” Yes. Yes. And yes.

DCIM100GOPRO

Walking around downtown Omis.

What we did right — and it was only by the wisdom of the guy my Beloved knows — was to stay in Omiš, a small, tourist-friendly town with several public beaches, lots of interesting places to eat and affordable accommodations (even for travelers who don’t know a guy) where visitors can walk almost everywhere. We didn’t stay in a hotel, we lived in a condo. In June (before the busy season of July-August) Omiš felt like an undiscovered jewel we had all to ourselves.

coffee and pastry

Coffee and my favorite, spinach pastry.

We’d wake up in the morning (the sun officially rises at 5:13 a.m. in Omiš in June but it’s light long before then) and enjoy a coffee from the coffee shop and a pastry from the bakery. Yes, it was two stops, but only steps apart. The pastries were impeccably fresh but enormous; the coffee was fresh, too, but never big enough (I live in suburbia, remember, where Starbucks sizes its coffee as tall, grande and venti, which means, literally, 20, as in ounces).

Nearly everyone speaks English, they drive on the same side of the road as Americans (we rented a car) and the exchange rate was favorable. An expensive coffee was the equivalent of $1.10, so there was no guilt in ordering a second (or third) cup.

Omiš sits at the mouth of the Centina River, so when one tires of looking at the sea (no one tires of this, but the sake of transition, go with me on this), one can take a boat ride up the river and be treated to a gorge not all that dissimilar from the Wisconsin Dells. For us, Omiš was an excellent home base to do a few day trips — to Split, Trogir, Makarska and Dubrovnik. I’ll share more about some of these places in future Travel Tuesday missives.

fish for two

Fish dinner for two. Who gets the eyes?

Since Croatia is on the ocean and only miles away from Italy, the food is comfortingly familiar (think seafood, pasta and wine) and exhilaratingly exotic (think whole fish, the most divine bolognese sauce and house-made apéritifs, a spritely spirit one drinks before dinner to stimulate the appetite). The ice cream in Europe in general, but definitely in Croatia, is creamy beyond measure and available everywhere. I indulged in ice cream at least once a day.

ice cream

Mmm, ice cream.

 

After visiting such a relaxing and magical place, I am changed. I’ve been to a lot of cosmopolitan places — London, Toyko, Sydney — but the coast of Croatia is, by far, the most breath-taking. I am awed by the natural beauty of the place, and I was seduced by the concept of living and working in such a ruggedly magnificent locale. I am more aware than ever that I grew up in a land-locked state on the plains of America.

Which leads to this conclusion: After my amazing travels last month, I am still the same. I love a good rut. I know, better than ever, that the best adventures for me are ones that are comfortable and familiar. I’m not one to sleep on the floor, eat fish for breakfast or, God forbid, pee in a trench. What I loved about Croatia was that even though I was a foreigner who didn’t speak the language and struggled to count her change, I could feel at home there.

Travel Tuesday: Yuma prison is an oasis in a tourism desert

You know the saying, “Nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there”? Yuma, Arizona, has the opposite problem. It’s a nice place to live, for a few months in the winter at least, but there’s not much for tourists to see.

Two Yelp-worthy restaurants keep downtown alive, there’s a good shopping mall and I know organizers offer some farm-to-table dining events in honor of all the fresh veggies they grow in irrigated fields all around Yuma, but as far as notable tourist attractions, the Yuma Territorial Prison on the shores of the Colorado River is it.

Would I travel all the way to Yuma to take it in? Probably not. But worth seeing if you’re in the vicinity.

The Yuma Territorial Prison was built in 1875. It was closed as a prison in 1909 (though hobos in the Depression found it a welcome shelter) and renovated as an interesting, semi-interactive museum in 1940. If touring the dingy cell blocks where inmates literally sweat to death doesn’t scare you straight, I don’t know what would.

yuma mugshot faroffThe museum offers photos and storyboards of notable wardens, workers and all kinds of infamous Wild West inmates. You can even dress up as one!

Even if decide not to go inside, the grounds and surrounding area are beautiful (in the wintertime anyway). The prison is on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River, the same waterway that carved out the Grand Canyon. But by the time the Colorado makes its way to Yuma, you can practically wade across it.

IMG_6097A beautiful riverside park with walkways and bike paths lines the banks. Compared to the rest of Yuma (which is in the heart of the desert), the park is a welcome oasis of green.

If you took the prison tour, your best bet for dinner is Prison Hill Brewery, one of those notable downtown restaurants I mentioned earlier (the other is Da Boyz Italian Cuisine, which offers enormous servings of pasta and pizza). Prison Hill offers its own cleverly named beers (I enjoyed a nice light Jailbait Blonde once) and an interesting bar menu of appetizers such as fried avocado and burgers like The Shank. Both Prison Hill and Da Boyz offer shaded winter outdoor seating, which is bliss on a nice, sunny day.

An ode to a threshold

The holiday weekend couldn’t come soon enough at Minnesota Transplant’s house this week. We spent most of Monday and Tuesday installing new flooring in the pantry aka back entryway aka laundry room, and then I spent most of the rest of the week adding coats of paint and polyurethane to the foot locker where we squirrel away our shoes in said pantry. Lots of sweaty, tedious effort.

I’m not quite ready to show off our handiwork, but I’m particularly grateful for the new threshold from the pantry to the kitchen about which I want to pine away for a minute or two.

threshold

The threshold (and my Beloved’s hand as he touches up the quarter round off camera).

Yeah, it’s essentially a two-inch wide piece of plastic hiding the ugly place where the kitchen tile meets the pantry tile. Gratitude. For a threshold. Made of plastic.

Skeptical? Let me explain.

That ugly strip was a bit of stapled linoleum for the past nine years. Since we moved in. I must have walked over it 10,000 times. It was an eyesore that familiarity made me blind to.

And now it’s a perfect detail whose beauty I appreciate that I will soon become blind to, too. But before that happens, I want to appreciate it:

  • It covers those ugly staples.
  • It’s the smooth and flat surface in the doorway, preventing me from tripping when I’m carrying groceries, or another load of laundry, or the recycling.
  • It required extra attention from my handy Beloved who figured out how to even the flooring so it could lie so functionally flat. I have no clue how to perform such carpentry magic.
  • It matches both the old kitchen tile and the new pantry flooring. It’s perfect.

It’s a small, small thing in that little room and an infinitely smaller thing in this big world, but it makes me smile.

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
whispering, “It will be happier.”

~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ah, ’tis the season for racing fans (and the ones who love them)

In honor of attending my first race night of the season at the local stock car racing track, I’m sharing the post I wrote at the end of the season when my Beloved and his brother raced every weekend (and I cheered in the dirt-covered stands)…

9 things I learned by watching stock car races every weekend and 1 thing I still don’t understand

Coping with bangxiety

Today is a bad hair day.

Yesterday I wore an ugly headband and today I’m wearing a hat even though it makes my head sweat in the near 90-degree temps.

Shaggy DA

The Shaggy D.A. on Day 48 with bangs.

It’s because I have bangxiety.

 

I forgot yesterday was Travel Tuesday and I was supposed to blog about the Yuma Territorial Prison.

My absent-mindedness is because I have bangxiety.

I can’t wait until tomorrow when I have a haircut scheduled.

My impatience is because I have bangxiety.

Thanks to Fab Over Forty, I learned a great new word (bangxiety!) and confirmed my recent decision to adopt forehead fringe. Kari Schultz over at Fab Over Forty blogs that bangs are not frumpy but fabulous for those of us nearing middle age.

Yes, for the first time in 25 years, I got bangs 48 days ago. They were awesome for the first six weeks. I looked decades younger, I’m positive. But now they’re driving me wild with bangxiety! This is always the problem with bangs, I remember ruefully. Time passes, hair grows. And I. Can’t. See!

Now I know why the Shaggy D.A. had a nose for mystery. He sure didn’t have the eyesight for it!