Loving

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For all of my fellow Little House on the Prairie fans, greetings from Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Oh my goodness, Laura Ingalls Wilder lived here! I wouldn’t say there is a whole lot in the looking department at the early hour we visited, as the museum opens at ten, and especially since we only noticed Plum Creek on our drive out of town and didn’t want to stop, but still.

I spent so much of my childhood (and a summer as an adult!) deep in the books, reading them a couple of times, then watching the show, it was impossible for my heart not to overflow a bit. We also ate at Nellie’s Cafe, which is a cute little place with kindly service, the biggest sausage on a breakfast sandwich, and an amazing sticky roll, which was HOT from the oven.

A little blurry, I know, but look at my smile. The excitement of being in Walnut Grove!

At the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. I have always wanted to stop here! The corn cob murals are pretty spectacular, with such a variation in shades, and certainly worth the trip.

The downside of my 51 year old body is having eyes going farsighted and that the tiny little preview of photos on my camera look pretty great until I get home and see they are blurry as heck. Wah!

So, you won’t be able to see the wall to wall motorcycles coming and going from Sturgis lining the road in front of Wall Drug. The Wall Drug, with signs for hundreds of miles. I have even heard they have a sign in the London Underground. Fancy!

It was a mob of people with every kind of accent and shade of sun burn and tan, all gobsmacked at the masses of choices of goods on offer. You will not be surprised to learn I bought fudge, in my favorite amaretto flavor. If it isn’t illicit, you can probably find it here before finding solace in Jesus (or whomever) in the sweet little chapel. Welcome traveler!

South Dakota melting into Wyoming, beauty for mile upon mile! The old timey Frontier gas pump is located at the finest public restroom on our journey. Located on East 21st Avenue, just east of Main, in Torrington, Wyoming. It is clean and bright and filled with vintage charm!

Greetings from Pella, Iowa, town of all things windmills, tasty pastry, deluxe sausage (think Slim Jim, only AMAZING), and window manufacturing. How I loved the old buildings and their charming fronts. My cute, best-ever travel companions, Greg and Juniper! She donned an insect repellent bandanna for much of our trip, as the Mid-West bug situation is next level. I still have remains from quarter inch welts (mosquito?), which I used to think only existed in the world of movies. How disappointing to be so very wrong, dear peeps.

I failed to fill the big shoes but still had quite a lot of fun!

Pella has the cutest downtown, chock full of Dutch inspired architecture spanning the ages. The rightmost building in the above photo, holding the Jaarsma Bakery, was one of our prime destinations. In addition to baked goods, they sell all manner of fun Dutch goods: candies, shoes of wood and ceramic, ornaments galore. I was a stellar customer, buying many gifts in addition to Dutch Letters, a crazy good apple pastry, and a couple varieties of cookie. Ulrich Meat market was our first and best source of the beef meat sticks, partaking in a bacon jalapeno and smoked gouda. So good!

My friend Bob recommended super cute Dutch Fix, and it did not disappoint! Frisian Fries (like poutine, but with a spiced gravy), and a Gouda Burger. And fear not, the two of us shared them. It was vacation, and we ate A LOT, but those huge portions would have been madness!

Pella’s Klokkenspel rings out with figurines a couple of times a day. Cute, but not half as exciting as it sounds.

And now, the sweet town square of Oskaloosa, just a bit down the road from Pella.

Oskaloosa is in Mahaska County, and this statue depicts the Iowan Chief for whom the county was named.

Oskaloosa City Hall

Oskaloosa Public Library

Inside the Smokey Row Coffee House. They’ve converted an old department store, filled with every manner of sign found in the town, including this dazzler of a movie marquee. I highly recommend both the coffee and the sweet service. I chatted up a kindly woman from St. Louis, attending William Penn college on a volleyball scholarship. How intimate and inviting the world becomes in situations like these.

Quaker Friends Meeting House

Amos Briggs & Edith McCracken Briggs

And now the reason for our visit to this tiny town. My Great-Great Grandparents Amos and Edith lived here! They were successful farmers and Quakers and most definitely attended the Meeting House above, along with my Great Grandpa and his siblings, John and Clara. Grandpa Amos died in Oskaloosa in 1911, and despite a valiant effort to visit his grave, I never could find it. Sad face. Grandma Edith lived in Colorado after his death and was the only grandmother my Grandma Frances ever knew.

Baby Howard

My Great Grandfather William Howard Briggs was born March 3, 1894. Adults called him Howard (when angry, he was “How-errrd!!” to Grandma Tillie), but always Grandpa Briggs to me. All the buildings I chose to photograph, save the fabulous Eagle in front of the Fire Station, existed during his time in Oskaloosa. My heart swelled at the thought of him wandering as I did, most especially at the library.

Grandpa Briggs enlisted in the military on June 5, 1917 at Laramie, Wyoming during World War I.

He met my Grandma Tillie at a dance in Greeley, Colorado after the war. They were married on June 23, 1919. This photo was taken three years later, in November. Wasn’t he dapper?

This is the younger version of how I remember him, holding court in his chair, cigar or paper back (Louis L’Amour) in hand, often a mischievous grin on his lips. Perhaps because I was such a vocal and independent child, Grandma Tillie was never terribly nice to me. Her favorite, forever and always, in obvious and small ways, was my cousin Brad. Grandpa Briggs clearly recognized this. While I have no recollection of a single word uttered between us (his voice an unknowable mystery), I remember him with great fondness, his huge hand enveloping mine, walking with me to the Western Motor Lodge, and letting me choose penny candy. His was the first death (March 9, 1980) affecting my own person, experienced as a sincere loss, when I was nearly nine years old. What magic to connect with his youth as he did with mine.

Hello Neighbor, near and far! It was an exciting day at the grocery recently, with cherries on super sale! We bought two brimful bags and ate them in very short order. The height of summer pleasure, to be sure.

Our choke cherry patch is in full splendor, with the birds and squirrels positively wild for them! I contemplated picking some for jelly but watching their delight in the eating has been ample.

The orange horned poppy was battered in our late snow storm and is a bit on the small side but still blooming profusely. The word is resilience.

Matilija poppy and glimmering green sweat bee (I think). The poppy volunteered this year, and is blossoming like crazy. The bees of all stripes (literal and figurative) are zooming on it all the live long day.

The gooseberry also took a beating in our late storm while still managing a small harvest. This bush is in our Juniper-proof fenced edible garden. She’s allowed entry when we do our progress checks and watering, standing sentinel next to the bush, knowing full well I am a sucker for her charms. I take a small handful, break each open just a little and feed them to her, one by precious one. Both our hearts soar.

Stillness and Movement and Joy

Our very convoluted mattress (four compartmentalized pieces, zipped into in one heavy giant!), which is nearing the end of its useful life at nearly eight years old, was making uncomfortable bootie canyons of clutterd and fallen springs. Sad face. I got the idea that we could do some creative re-organizing, cut and flipped the affected areas, and voila! I do believe we will get at least one more year from my bit of invention. And though that looks like an awful mess at the foot now, it is entirely undetected by our wiggly feet.

When we visited New York City in 2015, I enjoyed a stellar corn soup that has never left my memory. Last week, while browsing the freezer for lunch, bags of corn and spinach called to me. I made super simple purees, lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, and tarragon, before carefully spooning them into bowls, NYC style. Greg called it crack soup, and I knew I’d lived up to that first taste. We’ve since enjoyed a second delicious batch.

And to our more mainstream Southwest style eats. Mushroom tacos on homemade corn tortillas, with a serious note of gratitude to Joanna Gaines for a recipe that is not too sticky. I can FINALLY make my own, easy breezy every single time. Good gracious, yum, yum, yum!

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle…

In the garden gives category: we beat the birds to the cherries this year! I made an amazingly delicious tart (definitely better when home grown) and three jars of equally delicious cherry jam. Like spreading a little bit of pie on your life, a.k.a. heaven. Smoked chicken, salad with ranch, and pancake/fritters with our first garden grown zucchini and some of the chili jelly/jam I made a short while ago. Yum, yum, yum.

In Rainbows, with a serious nod the most stellar Radiohead album of the same name. More, please.

fern bush
gaillardia
hollyhock
Loving on Pops
lodge pole pine
Apache plume
mallow
faded rose a.k.a. deer delicacy
echinacea – with and without rabbit nibbled petals

The parents! We had a fun weekend of eating (green chile, Cherry Bakewell tart with my own jam!), gaming (Sequence, canasta {they cleaned our clocks good and proper!}), more eating (biscuits and jams and bacon, grilled steak, homemade focaccia with grapes and rosemary, salad, grilled asparagus, the remaining Bakewell tart), more gaming (Spades!), library browsing, movie watching, dog cuddling, and porch chilling. Not too shabby….

Howdy from the Ogden Theater last Monday. Fontaines D.C. baby! Even though we loved live music and only lived ten blocks away in our early marriage days, this was our first time at the Ogden. In an old people with money to spare fashion, we paid in advance for nearby parking, arrived early enough to snag actual seats, and were utterly shameless in saving our hearing with neon green ear plugs. The lush life and a damn good time. Also happy to report there were plenty of other grey-haired attendees having fun in equal measure. Awesome, yup, yup.

I guess this is us openly admitting that we want the damn pandemic to be over. I am not in denial about numbers rising or the staggering number of people without a single shot, but we are thrice vaccinated and don’t want to live in a state of fear and anxiety. SO, when a favorite band announces a date in the area and all works in our favor to attend, we are doing it.

The show was fantastic – great crowd, great energy! We loved the opening band, Just Mustard, which is always such a fine gift. Grian and the gang were on top of their game, everyone doing their best at their given role, yours truly included – singing at top of voice, of course. They didn’t play Roy’s Tune, but did Jackie Down the Line, so it was all good in the end. Very, very good, actually.

We stayed with my parents, which kept us from being uber-fatigued drivers on the south bound 2-5 Monday night. We made a right deal out of it, packing the pizza oven for a tip-top luncheon, playing the usual games, watching movies and comedy (Nate Bargatze!) and such. Five out of five stars, peeps. F I V E .

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