Loving

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Happy Christmas Eve! Here is hoping you are safe and warm and surrounded by those you love. What a literal shit storm of a week it has been across these United States. I am grateful for electricity and heated spaces, boy howdy.

This cute tree is the invention of Michael and Mary. We enjoyed a most wonderful time of the year sleepover at their house last Friday, complete with epic meals made by Michael and cookies made by Mary, as well as cider sipping, coffee guzzling, puzzling, and gaming. All of our usual with a nice surprise, too.

Dear Jesus the dog dearly departed this past summer after fourteen magical years. This is the newest addition, Leo. He is a 100% sweet and 1000% energetic puppers. Seriously. So much energy! He and Juniper ran around the yard for literally hours, which was wonderful for us humans as the temperatures were not terribly walk-friendly. They exercised themselves good and proper!

In advance of our visit, Michael and Mary said they had a surprise for us, one requiring sturdy shoes and warm garments. Greg guessed a snowball fight, while I came up mostly blank. This Chatfield branch of the Denver Botanic Garden stroll was it, and boy was it delightful! At 19 degrees, we walked swiftly through the magical affair. It took ages to heat up afterward, with mulled wine and hot beverages and the warmest of conversation. Worth it!

Michael’s not world famous but probably ought to be canelĂ© for breakfast. So good!!

A moment of stillness…

After our Michael and Mary sleepover, it was time for another with my parents! Daddy is the best napper I know, even beating out the hubster.

Game time! Greg and I reigned supreme at Sequence this time round, but there were no hard feelings. We also did some binge watching – Nine Perfect Strangers, continued to eat like kings, more delicious homemade treats along with a whole host of store bought. The best.

Juniper sings the praises of a new sweater while also wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

Brian Patrick Hagman. I knew Brian in junior high, only vaguely, boyfriend of a friend, giant smiled and preppy, winner of the science fair. Fast forward two years, Junior English, and he’s lanky and much more handsome, the best hair at school, seated next to me. No longer preppy, sporting shirts emblazoned with my own recent obsession: SKULLS. I am instantly smitten, duh, duh, duh. Though he has zero romantic interest in me, we are fast friends in all other arenas.

On our first outing, he picks me up in his coolest of cool cars, a red convertible VW Bug. We sail down I-70, hair whipping, a cacophony of tunes and voices shouting over the din. Destination: Mushroom Tables, me a lone female among a sea of skaters, the magic and splendor, joy and ease. There will be more of this and other hangouts, caffeinated evenings, diners and dives, Paris on the Platte, too.

Brian will form a band – Wretched Refuse – named after the Emma Lazarus poem, cementing both his daring and intelligence. He was ALWAYS the smartest person in the room. I’ll attend shows, mostly in shady warehouses downtown: deafening, rowdy, moments straight from fil-ums, and stand in awe of his wit and charisma.

Always open to novel experiences, I organize an evening at a theater above Paris, Sam Shepard’s Seduced. If you’ve seen it, you likely know where I am heading. Imagine being seventeen, sitting next to a boy you fancy, while simultaneously trying to pretend this creepy, long nailed, Kleenex flinging weirdo isn’t simulating masturbation right before your eyes. I don’t think the pair of us ever worked so hard NOT to look at each other.

In that youthful time of firsts, my season with Brian was a source of many: first ride in a convertible, first cigarette (oof!), first and last porno play, first (only?) friend to show up wearing the same shirt without prior planning, first friend to get a tattoo (and later name his second band after it), and first friend with whom I will play pool and stay out until dawn, in one extraordinary two-fer.

That halcyon night into morning, testament to Brian’s story telling prowess, had him conjuring us, as we all wore Army inspired garments, as veterans of Vietnam, our detailed fictional history brilliantly woven from the ether. After a smashing defeat at the pool hall, with me at the wheel, Joy Division on the speakers, we zoomed the back way to Boulder and across the diagonal, to Longmont, nearly Ft. Collins. The laughter and stories, going, going, of our dreams, of landscapes, of Rudy (Ru-dayyy) the Zippo lighter, a gift from Mike Lombardi, also present, though no longer, lost more than a decade ago.

Life separated us, for painful and practical reasons, and this conjuring of memory, a joyful opening of a precious time capsule, the result of me wondering if he breathes still. My kindly friend who never belittled nor diminished me, who smiled, who filled rooms with thunderous laughter, both his own and in response to him. How I loved him. How I loved who we were together.

The last of our garden tomatoes, before and after roasting into a delicious soup.

The first year since moving to our Colorado house that the garden aspens actually turned sunset hues. They’re usually killed by frost or snow before the opportunity arises. What a show!

Juniper looks so little when she sleeps.

Jett came for a visit. We gorged on Italian food and homemade ice cream, shopped, walked, and puzzled. It was a great day!

Doing a lot of meat over shredded cabbage, as of late. This is a middle eastern take on ground chicken, with tomato, onion, raisins, and hot honey pinon nuts. It was delicious.

Have you watched Sprung on freevee? If you haven’t and are a laugh out loud and nice show person like me, get to it! It’s a super fun series about three people released early from prison because of COVID. I’ve watched it twice and highly recommend the same.

I am holding a John Wayne casserole made after seeing it on the show. It has a biscuit base, ground beef, cheese, and a million different iterations after that. In keeping with old school casserole vibes, I added a can of cream of mushroom soup, then a mixture of garlic and chile powders, tomato, green chile, and corn. Tasty!! I’d make it again in a heartbeat.

When Greg and I were in Wisconsin, we had some really good maple pecan fudge. Its only defect being it was a bit too sweet for us. I couldn’t get it out of my head and decided it could benefit from the bitterness of chocolate. I made a batch this past weekend, dividing the basic five-minute fudge recipe, two thirds with white chocolate chips and 3/4 teaspoon maple flavoring (real maple syrup was a major fail), and one third with the usual chocolate chips, and layering the two. It is amazing peeps!

Bought a jar of wonderful creosote and rosemary cream and a delightfully scented candle from Sonoran Rosie. So pretty and smells like the desert in bloom.

Bracelet in progress. I think I like it.

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.

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