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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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Out of town (07/28/2013)
By Frances Edstrom


A week ago, my daughter Morgan and I took her two girls to the Mall of America (shudder) for lunch at the American Girl store there. This trip was not going to be Fran’s usual budget weekend. I am pretty cheap, much to my girls’ regret in their childhoods. Morgan convinced me that if we were going there, we had to be prepared to spend some money. Whoa! I pried open my purse, and prepared to sob as I waved goodbye to my hard-earned dollars.

After the experience, I won’t say I didn’t mind spending the money, but I will admit that it was a good experience. The girls brought their dolls (one without her shoes, the other without her undies), and we found the store right away. As we walked into the Mall and the short way to the store, I was reminded once again why I avoid such places. The noise level was overwhelming.

The din coming from the amusement park hit me first. There was also a Vikings event going on, which meant a huge crowd and long lines, with some poor fellow screaming into a microphone, without any hope of being heard. Add to that screaming babies and teenagers yelling, and I nearly turned around, jumped into my car and drove home, leaving my family to fend for themselves. But I didn’t.

Soon we were in the relative quiet of the store, where we were just in time for our lunch reservations. We were ushered into a room decorated in every shade of pink you’ve ever seen. Decorative chandeliers hung from the ceilings. Our table was beautifully set, with pink napkin rings and a pretty little pink box on the table in which were little slips of paper with “conversation starters” printed on them: If you were an animal, which one would you be. That sort of thing.

Our waitress arrived, a nice young woman named Breanne. She beamed the entire time she talked to the six of us in her cheery voice. Six? Yes, the dolls were each supplied with a hook-on high chair so they could join us. They also had tiny pink and white cups and saucers at their places.

We ordered from the menu. Everything was the same price, which made me nervous, but when the food came, the portions were quite large, and each entree came with a starter. Andie, who is four, could order from a cheaper menu. The food was artfully presented, too. Peyton’s starter was fruit, which came in flower shapes on skewers, with a tiny flower pot filled with dip that had a little artificial flower placed in it. She ordered macaroni and cheese, which naturally she picked at. Andie ordered cheese pizza, and only ate half of it. (No wonder I’m cheap!) Morgan had salmon, and I had a very good chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries. To my chagrin, I found I couldn’t eat all of my meal, either.

Andie’s meal came with a hot fudge sundae, so we bought a dessert for Peyton — three tiny ice cream cones, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry all decorated differently, in a little holder. As a good grandmother, I had to help them eat all that ice cream!

After lunch, we went to the dolly beauty parlor, where Peyton’s doll had her ears pierced (didn’t hurt a bit), and Andie’s doll got her hair braided by a very friendly, kind, and patient woman. To leave, we had to walk through the store. Overwhelming!

These dolls can live like royalty. They can have entire bedrooms, horses, skis and a ski lodge (throw in a snowboard), strollers, rollerblades, hot air balloons, dining rooms…I found it way over the top, and was developing a rash from “stuff overload.”

At the restaurant, we sat at the window overlooking the amusement park, so naturally the girls were now agitating for a ride. Peyton settled on the roller coaster, but needed an adult to accompany her. My grandmotherly duties only go so far, and Morgan had to be her companion. Andie and I meanwhile found the carousel, fitted out with fanciful animals, not just horses. As we approached it, she immediately said, “There are two kitties.”

She clutched her ticket and got into line. I stood at the rail, and panicked when I briefly lost sight of her in the crush. I needn’t have worried. I spied her sitting on one of the kitties, looking like the cat who had swallowed the canary. She thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and when it was over, we went looking for her mother and sister. We found them at the roller coaster exit. Peyton looked in the pink, but Morgan looked a little green.

I was pleased that they didn’t beg for more rides, because I was done in. When we got outside the building, it was almost as though I’d lost my hearing, it seemed so silent compared to the mall interior. Enough for me for another year, I thought, but didn’t say aloud. It’s just too creepy to think that I was in a crowd comparable to everyone in Southeastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin, stuffed into downtown Winona all at once — with a big wall around us!

We then went to visit Cassidy, Angie, and Harry, and the next day took in the matinee at the Children’s Theater in Minneapolis, where we saw “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” The kids loved it, and we did, too. Funny, energetic, slapstick comedy. At home at the end of the day, I reflected on the weekend. People like to point out that there is so much more to do in a large city. True, but there is only so much you can do at once, and then you need some down time.

I can’t think of a better place than Winona for down time. Or up time, for that matter! Don’t miss the last week of Great River Shakespeare Festival events.

And crossing the river

On the way home from Minneapolis last weekend, we chose the route through Hastings, Minn., because I wanted to see the new bridge there. It is quite nice, a tied arch design that blends well with their old bridge.

The tied arch bridge design is what most people were expecting Mn/DOT to propose for the new Winona bridge. However, when the design was unveiled last month, to the dismay of most, Mn/DOT chose the least attractive (some would say) of the options, a concrete box girder style that would create an unaesthetic effect when placed next to our current bridge.

Hastings has a beautiful bridge. La Crosse has a beautiful bridge. Winona deserves a beautiful bridge. A bridge crossing the Mississippi River is necessarily going to be expensive, and will have to last a long, long time. It’s not as though we can look at it after it’s built and say, “Well, we’ll get a nicer one next time!”

There is a public meeting scheduled for August 12, at the Winona Armory. Let’s show up and let Mn/DOT know how much a new bridge and a beautiful design mean to us. 


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