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The One with Sanrio Puroland

I am not a brave person by nature. I have to REALLY want something to leave my comfort zone.

I hate driving in cities. I only drove to downtown Ann Arbor by myself when I was at the height of my Kid Rock obsession and their was a DVD that I just had to buy. (By the way, that particular DVD was not licensed by him and SOOO not worth it.) I only drove in Downtown Detroit by myself when I wanted to go to Wordcamp 2012. (Interesting, but not really applicable to me:-( )

I only volunteered in a presidential campaign, calling people and going door to door, when I was obsessed the candidate. Once my obsession waned, it was almost impossible for me to function in such an environment.

I only published my book because it refused to remain unpublished any longer.

I do like to travel. But to drive anywhere in the car takes forever. Most of your vacation days are eaten up on the road, only seeing asphalt and experiencing rest stop restrooms. To get across the country fast, one can fly. But the only two times I have flown for travel in my life, (both times to Arizona), I found myself homesick shortly after arrival.

I would REALLY love to travel to Las Vegas and Hawaii someday. I would love to see all of the 50 states, actually. Maybe a lil’ Canada. But I would want to stick to places that speak English. That allows for London. And I took a lot of French in school. So I might be able to go to Paris on the same trip, if I left myself to the mercy of a tour group.  After four and a half years of taking French in school, I don’t remember any of it. Except the swear words.

My husband would like to travel all over the world. But that probably is not for me. Although I recently discovered an attraction that could have me changing my mind.

Some people love to go to Walt Disney World or Disneyland and be surrounded by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, the princesses, etc. I don’t have an affection for many Disney characters, except for Stitch and Boo. I think I would just find it overwhelming.

But there is a place that would overwhelm my senses with over-licensed characters that I do have a deep affection for:

Sanrio Puroland, located in Tama New Town, Tokyo, Japan

By Nesnad, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Nesnad, via Wikimedia Commons

It is an indoor theme-parked, dedicated to all things Sanrio, who’s most famous universe-wide character is Hello Kitty.

By Matryokeshi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Matryokeshi, via Wikimedia Commons

It would be awesome to see characters such as Hello Kitty, Badtz Maru, Landry, and Kerroppi walking around among the visitors. But can you even begin to imagine the gift shop?!



Hmmm…Maybe the best way to resolve this whole travel oversees issue is for Sanrio to build a Puroland here in the United States! Afterall, they have a Disneyland in Tokyo. Stranger things have happened.

What I Learned This Week – 9/7/14

Over the Labor Day weekend, my family and I took a vacation to Gettysburg. As early in our relationship as planning for our honeymoon, my husband had expressed interest in visiting Gettysburg. So, I figured maybe after 11 years of marriage I should let him go.

The first thing to know is that Gettysburg is in Pennsylvania. That is what YOU have now learned this week.

I saw many billboards for casino’s owned by Penn National Gaming, which is the company that also owns the Hollywood Casino, where I once had a job interview, and where my asbestos friend’s husband works. It dawned on me that maybe the “Penn” in the name means the company started in Pennsylvania. This made me feel smart.

Pennsylvania road signs

Pennsylvania road signs

As we drove on, through the great state of Pennsylvania, the interstate signs and license plates kept having a weird shape on them. At one point, I asked outloud, “Why does everything have that shape? It isn’t even the shape of the state! (Ohio signs have the shape of the state on them.)”

Then I realized the answer to my own question. Pennsylvania is “The Keystone State”. The shape must be a keystone.

And the only reason I even know what the hell a keystone is, is from a Thomas cartoon.

A scene from Thomas and Friends Blue Mountain Mystery, with the keystone missing

A scene from Thomas and Friends Blue Mountain Mystery, with the keystone missing

Then my husband and I wondered WHY it is called that. We had several theories. His was correct. He said because of Pennsylvania’s place in the creation of our country. Also, economically and geographically as well.

Our trip didn’t always go smoothly, but it was relaxing and memorable, including my son M’s first time camping. He did great…at that, anyway.

Here are a few of my artsy-fartsy pix to share with you today.

The "kids" in the backseat

The “kids” in the backseat

Monument for Jennie Wade. Super interesting story, look it up.

Monument for Jennie Wade. Super interesting story, look it up.

First night camping.

First night camping.

Meade's headquarters

Meade’s headquarters



The view from Little Round Top

The view from Little Round Top

I've never done one of these before, but I loved how it turned out...

I’ve never done one of these before, but I loved how it turned out…

Museum of Spam?

Behold, The Spam Museum!

In 2004, my husband and I were trying to buy our house. (Yes, as you may guess, it is now valued well below what we paid for it.) The sellers had accepted our offer and we were waiting to hear on a closing date. We were already approved for our mortgage. So what is a couple to do? Take a trip out West for a week!

It was the most ambitious trip we have taken to date. We left Michigan by car ferry into Wisconsin. We toured a submarine. We played at Lake Winnebago (Maybe I will write another post on that someday). We camped every other night in our Pontiac Aztek (with optional tent) and stayed in hotels the rest. We panned for gold. We saw the Badlands. We saw the world’s largest prairie dog. We went all the way to Mt. Rushmore. While Mt. Rushmore was awesome, that is not what we remember most from that trip. We remember the fun we had at the Spam Museum.

The Spam Museum is located in Austin, Minnesota. (I always have to think Austin, Texas to remember the name of the town.) We heard about it because my husband saw a brochure at a freeway welcome center. He insisted that we needed to go. I was very reluctant, as I usually am (sometimes unfairly) of his suggestions. I think he probably purposely steered our route through the town of Austin just so we could go there. And we had a flippin’ blast.

The Hormel factory (makers of Spam) is in Austin. The Spam Museum is next door. Now, I was there 8 years ago. So, if you travel there upon my recommendation, please realize some of my information could be dated.

Spam Museum parking lot

The parking lot spaces were all painted with the Spam logo. A giant metal statue of a farmer and a pair of pigs stood outside the front door. We walked in not knowing what to expect.

Spammy, the Spam Mascot

We were first welcomed by a statue of the Spam mascot, Spammy. He invited us to take a picture with him. There was also a giant floor-to-ceiling wall of Spam. There was a short movie that plays about the history of Spam. There were audio clips and memorabilia from pop culture and historical (war) references to Spam as well. There was a hands-on area that was quite fun. You could dress up like a worker at the Spam factory. You could see how fast you could can Spam (not real Spam, but a Spam-colored bean bag). My husband and I ran around and laughed our heads off.

Can you spot the “fake” Spam worker?

They have a huge gift shop at the museum where you can buy almost anything you can imagine, embelized with the Spam logo. We bought a T-shirt, and of course, some Spam. We ate it that night for dinner while we camped at Lake Mitchell (home of the Corn Palace). It totally cured my usual issue of vacation constipation.


We have never forgotten the Spam Museum. We are not real big Spam eaters. My husband will have it occasionally. I mostly love the kitsch factor of it. My husband outgrew the original Spam shirt, so I ordered him a new one from the Spam website (and a pair of sweatpants) for Christmas one year. He handed down the original shirt to me, which, being 8 years old, has now been sewn up about 10 times. Last year, I bought my son his very own Spam shirt for Christmas. We usually do not wear them all at the same time, but someday I would like to get a family picture taken that way. It would be wonderfully cheesy. And maybe we would end up on Ellen or something. Maybe that could be our Christmas card this year. People might think we are weird. But those who know us well already know we are weird.

Our collection of family Spam shirts

A few years ago, we went to a friend’s wedding in Minneapolis. We were right near the Spam Museum and hoping for a return visit. But we were on a tight schedule and the timing just wasn’t right. Man, just writing this, I yearn for another long, leisurely vacation like that one we took out West. We really had no plan when we began, but it turned out nicely. It would probably be a very different experience taking the little one along.

Cute lil’ Spam boy!

So, if you find yourself in Southern Minnesota, for a good time look up the Spam Museum:)

The Spam Museum
1101 N Main St
Austin MN 55912

The End

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When leaving on vacation feels like going to the hospital

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I just returned from vacation. As I was packing my little purple suitcase and my toothbrush to leave home at the beginning of my trip, I felt as though I had done all this before. Recently. But that was impossible, as I hadn’t been on vacation since July 2010, before my son was born. But then I remembered. I HAD done all this recently. Three times. For the occasions my son had to stay in the hospital. And maybe that was my first sign that this vacation just wouldn’t be all I hoped it would be.

A few posts ago, I talked about how well I was doing battling all my fears. When it comes to vacation, that all goes out the window. I worried that my car with 190,000 miles under its belt would not make it (that is before I realized we were going through the Appalachian Mountains with it). I worried that the dog boarding lady would come up with a reason not to take my dogs. I worried that my dogs would freak out at the boarding place and get bloat like Marley and die (I hate that damn book). I worried someone would break into my empty house. I worried my house would catch on fire (or get hit by a tornado, tsunami, etc.). I worried my son would cry the whole time in the car from Michigan to North Carolina (he usually only cries in the car when his future BFF is in the backseat with him). I worried he would cry when I took him in and out of the car more than three times in a day (this is a real thing that usually happens—he is a homebody, like his grandma). I worried the Fiesta factory would be closed when we got there. I worried that my new dress shoes I have never worn before would make my feet hurt. I was worried the rash under my eye would break out if I didn’t take my hydrocortisone cream.

I am happy to say, none of those things happened. My 16 month old son was an excellent multi-state traveler. Better than I ever could have imagined. Except the shoes did kill my pinky toes and I did get my eye rash. Can’t win them all.

I discovered traveling with a toddler makes a relaxing vacation rather stressful. He relies on us (his parents) for everything! He gets easily distracted and wouldn’t have eaten all day if I hadn’t made him. We have to remember to change his diaper at frequent intervals. Which, I am very happy to say, only once did his diaper overflow peepee, and that was on the very last day on the way home. Hey, no one is perfect. Although I wish I was.

The whole trip it felt like my husband and I disagreed about where to go. The purpose of the trip was his Aunt and Uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary. Which is fine. We had visited them previously, so they were not exactly strangers. My in-laws went down too. And I love them (and I am not just saying that because they read my blog:). But we spent a lot of time with his family, and I felt like I should have had time to visit a couple places I wanted to. We did have an extra time cushion while we were there.

I did get to stop at the Fiesta Factory on the way down. Which is amazing. But I was so overwhelmed and felt so rushed that we were only there like an hour. And we hadn’t had any lunch at that point. (Did I mention my husband starved me? I’m joking. Sort of.) I really wanted to go to Tamarack, because twice before I didn’t get to. But we didn’t go. And I feel we could have spared like two hours for that. After two days of family events, on the way home we went to Saltville, Virginia, for some Civil War history. We were there for four hours, not counting the hour we went to find lunch. Then we went home through Pikeville, Kentucky, where some of my ancestors were born. Which is sort of my pick and we spent the night there. But there was no way there would have been time for me to do any genealogical research. What I really wanted was a picture of my son and I in front of the sign of the city where his great-great-great-great grandfather was born. But I didn’t get that. On the way home I saw a sign for a store that sells fireworks, moccasins, souvenirs, and (wait for it) FUDGE! How great would that be! In the middle of nowhere Ohio! I thought, if we could just stop for a few minutes, that would make up for a few of my other disappointments. After all, I love cheesy souvenirs and the only ones I really got were from the Museum of Middle Appalachians in Saltville. But no luck.

Wall of Fiestaware

Now I know I am being petty. And my frustration comes from being a bit of a control freak. And I have hogged previous vacations visiting numerous lighthouses that my husband could probably care less about. But I can’t help it. I am still a little bitter.


I really have no reason to be unhappy with the trip. My kid was the youngest and cutest one at all the family functions. I got numerous requests to make more cute children like him. I got told I looked thinner. I got compliments on my new fancy dress. I got a new bathing suit, which my husband seemed very fond of. I got a box full of Fiestaware. My son behaved extraordinarily well. Every mother’s dream.

Maybe I missed how it was to travel without a toddler. Or maybe I was bummed because I didn’t get to overplan the trip as much as I normally would have. Or maybe the image of packing for the hospital kept haunting me somewhere in the back of my mind.

My son goes to the specialist again on Wednesday for a checkup. I hope-hope-hope, pray to God (except I don’t—except when I am exhausted and need a hotel room in the middle of nowhere Kentucky) that we get good news. It would be cause for celebration! How best to celebrate? Hmmm…Maybe a trip?

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