House Hunting, Day Two

December 30, 2007 at 6:06 pm (Pre-Move Updates)

Really, not much to report today.  After thinking more about the Centex Home and the Red-Shutter Home, I’ve reversed my decision.  If I had to choose today, I would go with the Red-Shutter Home because the neighborhood is just much, much more upscale.  I would plant some evergreen trees along the back fence-line and hopefully put up a privacy fence.

The only thing I was contemplating is where to put the kiddie stuff.  The main floor of the Red-Shutter home consists of, as you walk-through from the garage, the laundry room, kitchen w/ informal eating area, informal den, then the front of the house has the formal living room and formal dining room, and stairs to the bedrooms.  Having a formal dining/living room doesn’t really rank high on our priority list because it’s not really something that we would use unless we have company – and seeing how we will be having company (all of you guys), then it becomes slightly more important.  I just was trying to envision where I would encourage all the kiddie stuff to happen.  In many ways, the long informal den in the Michigan house was nice because we could have a play area without taking up too much space, and we were still on the main floor.  Obviously, if we finished the basement, there would be plenty of space for the kiddies to play down there.  I know, I’m getting ahead of myself, but it’s something I’m aware of, especially after I realized that in our current house, I don’t think there is room to put up a playpen!

In many ways, the Centex Home presents a similar problem.  I could put the kiddie stuff in either of the informal dens of the Centex or Red-Shutter Homes, or put them in the basement once it’s finished.  But in the Centex home, the formal living room is much smaller, it’s more like a parlor with room for two large chairs. 

Anyway…..I’m just getting wrapped up in details and both houses will likely be gone before we’re ready to purchase.  We went out this morning for about 2 hours to look at a few more.  Those were in the low 300’s and while all were doable, I couldn’t help but feel for just a little extra we could have a stellar house.

This is our agent, Sandy Joyce. 

We really like her.  After going out with her yesterday, Tom made a couple of observations about her that exemplifies why he likes her to much.  First, she thinks as fast as he does and doesn’t have a problem keeping up with the rapid 180’s that his mind makes.  Never once during the day did she stumble when he made an abrupt topic change.  And, this was most interesting and I swear, Tom brought it up.  She’s a fast talker, so fast that Tom can’t cut her off or interrupt her!!  I thought that was so funny, Tom finally met his match. 

Either way, she’s really smart and has 17 years of experience.  And she’s honest enough to answer our pointed questions.  She gave us some good ideas in thinking about the pricing/marketing of our Auburn house.  In fact, Tom came back and putzed on the computer until late in the evening, coming up with a list of to-dos.  He woke me up this morning with his staging ideas.  I agreed with most of them but put my foot down when he wanted me to box up my seal hutch.  I really, really don’t want to do that.  First, it’s a lot of work and I’d have to get packing paper (because I worry that news ink will wear off) and more boxes, etc.  The seals are contained and the hutch measures 10″ deep by 14″ wide.  I just don’t think it will make or break the space.  And!  If he’s not willing to take down the LARGE speakers that create a massive black expanse as soon as you walk through the door, then I don’t think I have to bend on this one.

I know he wants me to clean up more of the kitchen, like getting ride of the Tupperware and the stuff under the sink.  I wished he actually realized that, contrary to what he thinks he sees, I actually do use all that Tupperware and all my cookbooks on a regular basis and I’m not going to be without them for possibly six months.  I would be willing to relocate them to a closet or something, but it’s not like you can live with only 4 pieces of Tupperware – you have to have a nice selection of sizes so you can efficiently pack food up.  And hello, the cookbooks?  Does he think I do all the cooking from the top of my head??  But other than that, I think we’ll be fine.  We’re going to fold up the big dog kennel and they’ll get to sleep on their beds in the room with the door shut.  We’ll rent a twin bed for that room (or purchase a cheapie from St. Vincents) that way it doesn’t look like we have two bedrooms and two quasi-furnished offices.  That’s probably a smart idea.

We walked into a house that used those plug-in air fresheners and he loved them.  It had the same effect as all the fresheners in mom’s house.  My only problem is that I purchased ONE freshener, the same scent mom used, and set it to the lowest setting and within hours my nose was itching and Tom wanted me to unplug it since he was sitting next to it.  I think he may have forgotten that small issue.  I don’t think our house disperses the scent the same way mom’s house does.  For us, it just lingers and stinks up the place.  We’ll figure something out though.

It was 17 degrees today.  Pretty cold but not that bad.  Just a heck of a lot of snow.  We were both tired so we came back to the hotel for a nap and I think I’m suffering from Cabin Fever.  Was wondering what the equine scene looked like, so I checked out a couple of barns online.  There is some fancy-schmancy German Trainer who does dressage, but he’s for those people who purchase a German warmblood and use him to train for shows.  I did a search for all horses for sale within 50 miles and dear God!  There are so many expensive horses out here.  Like $15K and above.  I pulled about 30 horses and the most expensive was a show-pony at $85K, yeah, that’s right, and then the majority were $45-10K, and only about 6 under $10K.  Umm…ok…this could be kind of difficult.  Tomorrow I’m hoping to meet Dedra, the Cisco Rep at Thomson who is the dressage rider. 

We went to Boston Market for lunch today.  We both had the Chicken Pot Pie.  It was excellent.  I think for dinner we might try a Pizza/Pasta place.  So far, the food has been consistently good, although we’ve only been to chain restaurants.  Wendy’s doesn’t do breakfast out here yet, but they have BAGEL SHOPS.  Sure, it was a Big Apple Bagel and there is one in Bellevue, but they are plentiful out here.  Have seen no Coffee Huts, and a few Starbucks, but they have two other chains out here, Caribou Coffee and Dunn Brothers.  Both are supposed to be good.  They don’t have any grocery store we’re familiar with, they have Rainbow Foods and Cub Foods.  Cub is one of those bag-it-yourself places so it’s cheaper.  They have quite a few liquor stores, but I guess with all this snow, you need something to dull the pain.  Gas is 15-20 cheaper and you can purchase unlimited monthly passes to the car-wash places for like $25 so you can keep your car salt-free and your garage nice.  Oh, I didn’t mention this – Tom loves the Red-Shutter garage because the floor is finished and all the walls, all the way to the ceiling, are pegboard.

I’m sorry I don’t have more pictures.  At all the houses I was too busy taking the notes to snap pictures and then the ones that we liked have much better pictures online.  It’s difficult to take pictures of the area or even to describe it, but the road engineers have done a great job with the planning.  Just about every major county or state road is 4 lanes with turn lanes.  Very efficient. 

Tomorrow we stop by the Thomson office in the morning and head back to Seattle on a 3 p.m. flight.  I hope our luggage ends up in Seattle and not New York.

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Day One of House Hunting

December 29, 2007 at 7:57 pm (Pre-Move Updates)

Crap, crap, crap…..I’ve spent about 30 minutes typing up the results from today and then I must have hit something weird because now it’s all gone.  And I’m tired, so doing this again does not sound like fun….but I do it all for you.  That and Tom’s watching the Patriot’s game, so not like I could go to sleep if I wanted.

Ok, so here’s the update, minus all the semi-witty comments that I lost.

Got our luggage back.  Had to drive back the airport because the dummies who work for NWA probably wouldn’t have put it on the truck for deliver until the next morning.  Am very happy to have my stuff back and really glad Tom has a clean tee-shirt and undies. 

This is our favorite house.  We call it the Centex Home because it was a model home for Centex and a year ago was $390K.  It’s been tricked out with every upgrade possible and is now for sale for $320.  I couldn’t find a decent picture of the front, so I used an interior shot.  There are lots of great pics of the interior in the link.

Dining Area/Kitchen 

  • 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths with 2152 finished square feet with additional 1000 sf in unfinished walk-out basement.
  • Gourmet kitchen featuring center island, Cambria countertops, whirlpool stanless steel gold series appliances, wine rack, pantry buffet and maple flooring.
  • Cozy corner fireplace, complete surround sound with Icebox music system (think massive control system)
  • Master bath includes garden bath, separate stand-up shower and huge walk-in closet
  • Cedar deck, needs stairs to backyard

The house is beautiful and absolutely ready to move in.  Yes, the basement needs finishing and the deck needs stairs.  It’s in a Centex development, but it backs up against the HUGE neighborhood park, but at the far end of the park, not near the swing-sets and noisy children.  Also, we’d only have a neighbor on one side as the other side borders the road that leads to parking for the park and on the other side of that road is more park-fields.  So while the backyard is admittedly small, we’d have plenty of green area and a great, expansive view of the countryside.  No chance of someone peaking in the windows in this home. 

The Red-Shutter Home is our second favorite home and could easily be our very favorite.  It’s for sale for $317,500.  Please check out the virtual tour because the pictures along can’t capture the beauty. 

  • 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms on nearly ½ acre and 2200 finished square feet with another 1150 square feet in unfinished basement.
  • There is a fourth basement roughed-out, with toilet installed, in the basement.
  • Meticulously maintained and very elegant.

The only slight issue with this house is that it backs up to a busy county road.  While that means that the road to our house will always be plowed in a timely manner, and since we are the first house in the neighborhood and likely to be plowed first, it does have its drawbacks.  If we could erect a privacy fence, that would be awesome, but we don’t know if we can do that yet.  A smaller fence would be acceptable, judging from the neighbors, but a 8 foot fence?  The house sits atop a slight hill, so again, we have a very nice view of the countryside.  The neighborhood is beautiful.  This might be the “worst” house in the division, and that’s likely because the basement isn’t finished.  It is really appealing in its classic charm and sophistication.

Our third favorite home is this one, we call it the California Casual Home.  It’s priced at $319,900 and for two grand less, we like the red-shutter one. 

19395 Embers Ave

  • 4 bedroom, 4 bath with 2524 finished square feet on a lot 140×80
  • Lots of natural light, especially in the walk-out bottom level
  • Nine foot ceilings and wired for surround.

The drawback to this house is that it backs against a pond and we’d have to install a fence for both the dogs and future little ones.  When you walk in, you are on the main level which consists of the informal den, which is slightly sunken, and the kitchen area.  If you go upstairs, you get three bedrooms, including the master.  From the main floor, head downstairs for the bonus room and another bedroom.  We liked this one because of all the split and bi-level homes out here, which are plentiful, this one felt the most like a rambler.  The split-level is odd to us, so this made us feel more comfortable. 

Tomorrow we’re going to look at about another dozen homes.  We have a much better idea of what we want and what we can get for the money.  We really like our agent, Sandy, and I’ll tell you more about her later.  We’d be happy in any of the three homes listed above and if we had to decide this weekend, it would be tough.  The Red-Shutter home is definitely the most stately and the best neighborhood.  The Centex home probably has the best overall upgrades, but by far the smallest yard, but the best view.  And the California Casual home just feels very much like us.

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Not off to a good start

December 28, 2007 at 4:13 pm (Pre-Move Updates)

For the love of God….they sent our luggage to Maui.  Yep, the irony is not lost of me. 

We got the airport really early, before 1 p.m. on Thursday, and our flight didn’t leave until 4:25.  I didn’t mind because I thought the extra time might be useful for Tom.  We checked our shared piece of luggage, went to S-Gate, found the sandwich shop had become a Seattle’s Best Coffee, and returned to the main terminal for lunch at Dish D’lish.  In case you ever get to eat there, we both had a club sandwich on foccia bread and it was excellent.  They have “courtyard” seating so we were able to get some serious people watching on.

We sat in the plane on the tar-mack for over an hour because they had to de-ice the plane and well, SeaTac just doesn’t get a lot of practice with that kind of equipment.  Otherwise, the flight to MSP went well, Tom got us exit row seats so we could stretch out, and his anxiety was managable.

Unfortunately, it all unraveled when we got to MSP.  All the folks in front of us in the lost luggage line seemed to just have their luggage on the next flight, arriving in another hour, so I was encouraged that we might be in the same boat.  When the guy told us Maui, I couldn’t believe it.  That was the point that Tom had a mini-meltdown. 

We made a stupid mistake – we packed his medicine.  He was adamant that NWA get the luggage to us, tonight.  Yeah, right.  I mean, I want the bag as badly as he does, but you just can’t do anything about it when it’s in Maui.  The guy took it fairly well; I’m sure he’s been abused before.  The thing that I just couldn’t seem to make Tom understand at that moment was that of all the things in the suitcase, the drugs were the easiest thing to replace becuase, thank God, there are 24-hour Walgreen’s in MN. 

The plane had just landed in Maui and the customer rep immediately called to put the luggage on the next flight out in 30 minutes.  It would go through Seattle and hopefully land in MSP at 12:30 p.m. Friday.  We got our rental car and were off to find the drug store, armed with the measly $50/person NWA allots for expenses.

Well, because Tom was in a less than stellar mood and didn’t feel like waiting in line at Hertz for instructions to the hotel, he chose instead to use the Kiosk with the pre-programed routes to local hotels.  In case you don’t see where this is going….we ended up at the Springhill Suites in Eden Prarrie, not Eagan.  After driving around EP where Tom kept muttering “it’s sort of looks familiar”, and eating a truly disgusting Stuft’d Burrito from Taco Bell (gross), we found the pharmacy and got the meds, which Tom immediately took.

Eagan, the city located 15 miles east of the airport, not 10 miles west of it, seems nice enough.  We were operating on less than 6 hours of sleep today so hopefully I’ll have more to report tomorrow.  We got to the continental breakfast 15 minutes before it closed and then hit Kohl’s for a decent shirt for Tom.  I wisely agreed he could not go into the office in his Superman Tee.  I put on my new Drugstore makeup.  I was a little tan but not overly orange, and considering I forgot blush and had to use lipstick instead, it was an admirable job.

Thomson was really impressive in size and scope.  We met with HR, got hooked up with a Realtor and made a list of what we’re going to look at tomorrow.  Met his coworkers and that was neat.  I was talking to one, Brian, who has a Masters in Physics and raises at small herd of Scottish Highland cattle, and he informed me that their Cisco Rep, Diedra, is a serious Dressage rider.  Score!  Of course, this isn’t something that came up in the dozens of times that Tom has talked to her, but I plan on picking her brain and seeing her horse to get started out here.

We came back to the hotel around 3 for a nap so Tom could be fresh for the roll-out he’s doing tonight and so I could remain upright and human.  We stopped at Barnes & Noble for a new book since the flight from Seattle to MSP is delayedand now our luggage isn’t supposed to land until 5:30 p.m.  Please, everyone pray that I get my stuff tonight.  I’m so sick of these clothes and would really like my fleece.

As for the snow report….yep, there is snow.  Lots of it.  Deep on the sides of the road and such, but it’s 23 degrees and I’m surviving.  I have my puffy yellow coat and while it’s rather puffy, I’m not hot.  It’s just really weird to see snow as far as the eye can see.  The roads are absolutely clear so that’s good. 

The first thing I’m going to do when I get my suitcase is put take off this crappy makeup and put on my lovely moisturizer. 

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Pookie Carnage

December 27, 2007 at 10:33 am (Playtime)

Is this the face of ultimate plush terror?

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No?  How about this face?

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How could such a sweet little dog do all this damage in about twenty minutes?  Disregard Spice, she was reveling in spoils she took no part in creating.  She’s the vulture of Pookie guts.

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Yes, it’s true, Lola is a vicious, vicious killer.  Note the way that Spice plays with the toy, batting it around gently, without puncturing skin, and squeaks it…

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Lola on the other hand, begins playing nicely but it’s all a ruse.  First, she tests the strength of the Pookies’ joints.  Note the vicious claws extended for imminent use….

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Ahha!  She has found the Pookie’s weakness, it’s Achilles Arm, if you will.  A test tug follows….

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A slight repositioning for a better, more secure grip…..

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And she goes for the kill-shot….

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Meanwhile, it looks as though Spice has given up the fight…

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But in actuality, she’s waiting until she can pillage the village and keep all the spoils of war to herself!

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But at the end of the day, I think Spice and Lola are each other’s favorite Pookies…

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Yes, Spice is dragging Lola off the couch by her ear.

Merry Christmas!  12 more unscathed Pookies to go!

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Movie Review: Eastern Promises, The Kingdom and Balls of Fury

December 26, 2007 at 12:01 pm (Movie Reviews)

I’ll start with the good.

Eastern Promises is by the same people who brought us A History of Violence. This movie is violent. Mom probably wouldn’t like it because before the opening credits are over, someone gets whacked in a very realistic way. But the movie does a decent job of showing a small slice of the Russian mafia and the visuals of a true Russian restaurant/feast are worth watching out for. The plot is good, the pacing excellent, and at just shy of 2 hours, edited well. The only complaint I have is that Naomi Watts seemed to have something funny going on with her face. Is it just me or does she have some weird wrinkle around her mouth? Odd. Distracting. And could they have found tighter skinny-jeans for her?!

The Kingdom stars Jamie Foxx and I thought he did a nice job with this movie. Within the first few minutes, both Tom and I commented that it was like watching a young Denzel. His presence is both calming and reassuring, and I thought he gave an understated but assertive performance. The movie was good up until the last bit of the third act when I thought it felt like it was rushing to its conclusion. Lot’s of stuff being blown up but not in a Jerry Bruckheimer way. The jumpy photography may give mom seizures, but I thought it added to the film. Has Chris Cooper, the veteran actor, and the chick from Alias and Jason Bateman. Keep your eye out for the director in the first part of the movie – Peter Berg. I remember him fondly from Chicago Hope. Tim McGraw also has a small part and this is the second Peter Berg film he’s been in, the first being the excellent Friday Night Lights. That’s a good one too.

Lastly, Balls of Fury. What can I say. The best part of this movie was it’s running time – only 90 minutes. It wasn’t funny, wasn’t clever, wasn’t even decent to look at. Thankfully it wasn’t crass or crude, but it was a waste of time.

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A Doggy Christmas

December 26, 2007 at 10:57 am (Dog Update)

I’m sure you’re all waiting, with bated breath, to know how the pups enjoyed their Christmas. Let me just start by saying they truly, really, most assuredly appreciated the beautiful Christmas cookies Granddad sent. Here is a picture of Lola with hers.

Lola with Santa Cookie

And here are pictures of Spice with her new bones.

Spice with Basted Bone
Sorry about the red-eye. Will be able to fix that in the future.
Spice with HoHoHo bone

On Christmas Day, we needed to make a trip to mom’s house, so we brought the dogs along. We figured they could get their bark on before they went to Grandma Judy’s house.

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So many good things to smell….

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Here they are getting ready to do a little running. The snow was just starting and it was pretty wet. Tom’s wearing his new Christmas present, his Superman shirt.

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Grandpa? Grandma? Where are you? We’re ready to come in. Kinda wet out here…..

In all, it was a most excellent Christmas for the pups. Check back for the post on the Great Pookie Destruction of 2007!

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Well, I’ll be…

December 20, 2007 at 3:15 pm (Dog Grooming and Apparal)

The comb does seem to work. Can’t say it’s the best $53 I’ve spent, but it does seem to be effective. Certainly helps that Spice will lay there all night long. Last night was difficult for her because once she was down and comfy, Lola decided she was vulnerable and proceeded to see if she could instigate something. Spice later got her revenge.

Lola was standing in the doorway to the bathroom, looking in, and Spice gently pulled on her tail, trying to get a reaction. She kept pulling and pulling until I saw Lola move ever so slowly across the threshold.  Spice got her reaction then.

On baking news, I made the Peppermint Cookies last night. There is 3/4 cup of cocoa powder to only 1 3/4 cups regular flour, so they weren’t necessarily sweet, even though there was 1 1/2 cups sugar (brown and white). The white chocolate chips added sweetness, but the crushed candy canes added an interesting flavor. Taste wise, they seem to be more sophisticated than our traditional cookies – perhaps because the peppermint doesn’t hit you right away. Anyway, they are good. Also made the Aunt Nottie’s Peanut Butter Cup cookies which went over extremely well with Tom.

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Working just to keep the Dogs in Bones

December 19, 2007 at 2:02 pm (Dog Grooming and Apparal)

Well, not exactly bones – brushes.

Spice is shedding. Badly. I brushed her until no more fur was coming out and the next day she was shedding tufts of fur, again! Where was it coming from? And I’m not talking about just a small bit here and there, I’m talking about rodent sized fur-droppings all over the house. I need to vacuum every day, and while I love my new vacuum cleaner, seriously, every night??

So I cracked and went to Pet Pros and got a rake for $12. I smartly asked the sales girl whether this would work for my situation and she promptly and unequivocally said “no”. She has Siberians and the other girls has Aussies and they absolutely swear by something called the Fur-minator. I like the sound of that except that it costs $53!! That’s right, $53 for a dog brush. But both gals said I would regret the rake since they’ve tried both and the Fur-minator is the only thing that even comes close to curbing this issue.

 The Furminator

Apparently, Aussies “blow out” twice a year, meaning they lose all their undercoat and it’s way worse than shedding. So I put my eyeballs back into their socket and decided if I’m going to go down buying a $53 dog brush, might as well go down in flames. I moved to the dog coat aisle and bought Lola a new fleece coat with reflective striping. I don’t care either way for the reflective striping, but it should make it easier for Spice to attack her in the dark.

I’m debating whether Lola needs a new coat. Sure, her current fleece one won’t stay on unless I put it underneath the sausage sweater, but Tom’s going to be working from home so she won’t have to spend as much time outdoors. I say as much because some dogs, like Spice, need to get outside and run off some energy. Lola needs to get outside and burn some energy barking. Loudly and preferably in our neighbors direction. Additionally, Tom finally realized that Lola is very, very good about letting someone put her sausage sweater on and she even helps you poke her little legs through the armholes. But, if this sweater fits, it was a good price and it’s infinitely easier to put on, important factors if I want Tom to put something on her every time she goes outside. As a bonus, if he lets her back inside and doesn’t take the sweater off, she won’t overheat like she does when I double coat her.

We go from the dog that’s shedding out her thick undercoat to the poodle that needs artificial fur. Good thing we have disposable income.

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Movie Review: Pirates of the Carribean III

December 14, 2007 at 3:22 pm (Movie Reviews)

On Saturday night, after a long day traversing the greater downtown Auburn area to do our own comps assessment, Tom and I sat down to watch the third installment of the Pirates movie. I had finished making a huge batch of biscotti so we were fortified. The lights of the tree were glowing in the most festive manner. In fact, I even turned out the light and didn’t cross-stitch. Christmas is about the only time I’m not multi-tasking during movies because there is something so comfy about curling up with Tom and watching a movie with the glow of the tree behind us.

Where was I? Oh, right, the movie. The above paragraph might just be more entertaining than the movie. And that’s not saying much. Could I ask Netflix for my 3 hours back? Seriously, the movie was almost three hours and it was horrible!

There was to much. Too many plot devices that didn’t add anything and didn’t go anywhere. Did a whole character have to be created only to supply a bad storm? I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying, and it wasn’t because of the accents. And, for the love of all that’s holy, why did it take nearly 45 minutes for Johnny Depp to make an appearance?

I gave the second film a pass because I understood that as the middle movie, it was incapable of providing a satisfying resolution. In a way, I put my opinion of the movie on hold – or at least I qualified it with a “for a second of three movies”. But now? Now I have to downgrade the second movie also. The second one barely built up to the third and the third failed to deliver on all fronts.

The first movie was great. Neither the second or third added anything positive to the franchise. If you need a Pirates fix – watch the original again. Otherwise, save yourself.

But the biscotti were excellent.

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