In My House

Books: Dear Child

I took a significant hiatus from blogging over the past few months. I did a lot of reading during that time. One book I recently finished was the thriller Dear Child by Romy Hausmann. A young woman is kidnapped and found years later, but is it really her?

The book has tones of both Gone Girl and Room. In fact, the cover bears that praise written by another author. Having read and liked both of those, I will still say Dear Child is even better than those books. It has richly developed characters, many twists and turns, and delves into the psychology behind the various characters.

(Image from amazon.com)

Some pieces of a father’s love for his child and what it would be like to have that child go missing are absolutely heart-wrenching. Hausmann’s writing offers the perfect amount of description of a creepy cabin in the woods, a child’s naïve observations, and the strategic thought process of a captive woman hell-bent on escape. Read this one!

In My House

Four!

We welcomed our youngest daughter’s fourth birthday with not one, but two celebrations. It felt like the right thing to do given all the cancelled plans, sadness, and disappointment 2020 brought for so many of us. So while we were celebrating our spunky four-year-old, we were also celebrating the fact that we were celebrating something. Does that make sense?

First we had a small party with a few friends and family members at my parents’ house. Of course the theme was pandas, and my mother did not disappoint with the super adorable panda cake. My daughter insisted on eating a piece of cake entirely covered in black frosting, and I wasn’t even about to say no.

Then we were off to Washington, D.C. for some history lessons, a chance to see real pandas, and, of course the American Girl Store. I have been an American Girl fan since the 1980s and having never been to one of the actual stores, I was in heaven. The panda viewing didn’t pan (pun intended) out due to the National Zoo still being closed until mid-May, but we still had a great trip.

If there was ever any doubt that I married the most patient guy in the world, my husband endured almost three hours in the ever-so-pink two-level store and bistro without so much as batting an eye. It was over-the-top girly gloriousness. That’s the only way to describe it.

We ate lunch followed by a dessert of pink and white birthday cake. The girls’ dolls had their hair styled and nails painted. Then we shopped. If you think American Girl dolls don’t have cat litter box complete with fake kitty litter, a scooper, and plastic cat poop, you’re wrong. Of course that’s one of the items the birthday girl chose.

Happy birthday to this sweet, stubborn, funny, panda-loving girl. She makes our family complete. We can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

In My House

All 50 by 40: West Virginia

My quest to visit all 50 states was hindered a bit by the antics of 2020. Like many people, I canceled several travel plans during that year. After a lot of careful consideration (and vaccination) my husband and I decided we were ready for a family adventure.

We flew into Washington, D.C. and decided on a day trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia for some hiking, exploration, and of course history lessons. Harpers Ferry National Historic Park sits on the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Abolitionist John Brown was active there, and the area is full of historical facts.

Our daughters enjoyed going in and out of the old buildings. We hiked along the river at the foot of the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. We saw a lot of turtles, too, which earned the area extra points with the girls.

I would love to come back to this area in the fall. I can imagine the beauty of the foliage then. To be honest, it just felt so good to explore a new place again.

The weather was gorgeous and crowds were light the day we were there. We took in a lot of history in Washington, D.C., too, but Harpers Ferry was definitely a highlight of the trip. That John Denver was right.

One state to go! I’m planning to cross off Michigan later this year, which will be two years ahead of schedule for this goal. Stay tuned for that.

The Updated List

Michigan (I have been to airports, but that doesn’t count)

Books

Books: Wolfpack

If you are looking for a quick and highly inspirational read, grab Wolfpack by Abby Wambach. Wambach is a former professional soccer player and happens to be married to Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed. I loved this book.

I don’t have much (well, any) interest in soccer, but I do have interest in ways women can support and encourage one another. Wolfpack is short at just 95-pages, but it packs a punch. I never grow tired of being inspired by women who are honest and positive and know how to persevere.

(Image from amazon.com)

Wambach also published a version of this book geared toward pre-teen and teenage girls. I plan to pick up that copy in the near future as I gear up for parenting two teenage daughters in less than a decade. Time flies.

My favorite part of the book is when Wambach writes about how when she would score a goal on the soccer field, she’d immediately begin pointing. That is because the goal was not scored by her alone. Others were involved in every success. She tells her readers that when they succeed, they better start pointing.

She writes this: “Her victory is your victory. Celebrate with her. Your victory is her victory. Point to her.”

Books

Books: Untamed

Reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle felt like sitting down with a good friend for a deep and honest conversation. You know, those conversations that can go on for hours and cover anything and everything from hilarious anecdotes to deep, soul-bearing truths. Her writing is beautiful and real.

Doyle was a married mother-of-three speaking at a conference for women when she met the woman of her dreams. She writes about her husband’s infidelity and learning to find true love with the woman she eventually married. I was especially moved by her experiences parenting young daughters in an uncertain world, which is definitely something I can relate to right now.

8

(Image from amazon.com)

Living up to the expectations of others almost killed Doyle. From the time she was a young girl she struggled with eating disorders, alcoholism, and drug addiction. By the time she was nearly 40, she was in a broken marriage, struggling to be a good mother, and running herself into the ground.

Untamed tells about how Doyle pulled herself out of that decades-long rut and found happiness and truth. The book is broken into many stories, each one like a breath of fresh air reminding us that we are worthy of being loved for the person each of us is. No fronts. No façades. No b.s.

Books

Books: Anthony Bourdain: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

I recently stumbled upon The Last Interview book series, which features the last publicized interview of late celebrities as well as a variety of other interesting interviews and conversations. Of course the first one I was drawn to was Anthony Bourdain’s. I have long enjoyed Bourdain’s writing style and television shows.

I know it sounds weird, but when he died in 2018, it felt like more than just another celebrity death. I knew I would miss his work, his voice, and his occasional snarky comments. It felt a little like losing a friend.

(Image from amazon.com)

Bourdain was long an advocate of the importance of people understanding where their food comes from as well as the integral role food plays in defining our cultures. Reading this dialogue between him and various interviewers reminded me why I loved his work so much. It is about food and interesting people, but also about so much more.

There are more than a dozen Last Interview books featuring everyone from Kurt Vonnegut to Prince. Also featured are Toni Morrison, David Bowie, and, coming soon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These are interesting, fairly quick reads that give us one more look into the lives of these icons.

Books

Books: Stern Men

I enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoirs Eat, Pray, Love and Committed when I read them several years ago. I have never picked up one of her novels until recently when I stumbled upon Stern Men, Gilbert’s first novel, published 20 years ago. Her writing style is intriguing in her fiction as well as her non-fiction.

Stern Men tells the tale of two small islands off the coast of Maine and a centuries-old lobster fishing war. The inhabitants of the two islands grapple with each other while they experience both success and hardship in their way of life. Lobster fishing is dangerous, difficult, and anything but glamorous.

(Image from amazon.com)

The novel’s protagonist, Ruth Thomas, is a smart young woman with a foul mouth and a desire to someday run her own lobster fishing operation. The characters are engaging and the dialogue seems real. Many of the men on the island discourage Ruth from following that dream, pushing her instead to attend a mainland college.

Ruth’s relationships with the people of the island as she uncovers secrets of her family’s past are what make the book such a fun read. Ruth navigates relationships with her parents, a woman who is like a mother to her, and a variety of other island residents, and the quirks of real people shine through Gilbert’s writing. It is a reminder that sometimes the small towns and communities that shape our young lives are worth revisiting. Sometimes we cling to our roots, be it good, bad, or otherwise.

Food

Adventures in Kuchen-Making

I have many fond memories of sitting around my Great-Grandma Katie Kopp’s kitchen table. There was always comfort food. I remember her making homemade noodles, the delicious strips of dough laid out on flour sack towels on her bedspread. My brother and I would sneak a raw noodle once in a while. We’re fine.

The food I remember most from that table was kuchen. Kuchen is a custard dessert in a homemade crust. It is creamy, crispy, and comforting. The word kuchen simply means “cake” in German, and it is a family tradition for many of us descendants of German immigrants. It is also the state dessert of South Dakota.

This past weekend I decided it was time for my daughters and I to learn the art of kuchen-making. It turns out that the making of kuchen is a long, floury process. The making of kuchen with a three-year-old and a six-year-old leads to a full-on deep-cleaning of the kitchen. You know what? It was so worth it!

Grandma Kopp’s recipe was, in typical Grandma Kopp recipe fashion, vague. She frequently used phrases like “stir it until it looks right.” I knew that if I was going to stand a chance at succeeding in this venture, I needed a little more guidance. So the recipe posted below is a hybrid of the notes scrolled out in Grandma’s cursive and a couple recipes I found online.

My goal was for my kuchen to turn out as similar to Grandma’s as possible, and it came very close! Grandma passed away when I was 11, but I remember eating kuchen at her table so vividly. As we made kuchen together the girls asked dozens of questions about Grandma Kopp. It was a special time of reminiscing, and I feel like the process brought the girls closer to this woman who would’ve loved them so very much.

Recipe:

Crust:
1 package dry yeast
1/8 cup warm water
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4-5 cups flour 

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a stainless steel pan, scald the milk by bringing to a boil and then reducing heat. The milk should have a film on top of it. Add sugar, salt, eggs and vegetable oil into the milk. Add milk mixture into the bowl of yeast and water. Mix in 4-5 cups of flour, enough to make a good dough. Let rise about one hour. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Roll each to about 1/4 inch thick and place in a greased pie pan so that the dough covers the bottom and comes about halfway up the side. Let dough rise in the pan for 15 minutes.

Filling:
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups cream
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons flour

On the stove, heat the milk and cream together. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour and eggs together. Add the milk and cream mixture to the sugar, flour and eggs and return it to the stove and cook until it thickens. Pour about 3/4 of a cup of the filling mixture into each crust.

Topping:
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup margarine

Mix the sugar, flour and margarine together. Pour the topping on and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. After the kuchen comes out of the oven, let it set for five minutes, then remove from the pan and let it cool.

Books

Books: The Good Neighbor: The Life and Works of Fred Rogers

I finished The Good Neighbor: the Life and Works of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King some time ago, but am just now getting around to posting about it. The timing seems right, though, because I think now more than ever we need to be reminded to like each other just the way we are. King spent a great deal of time researching Rogers’ life, interviewing many people close to him, including many of the people who helped create and produce Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The book was published in 2018.

IMG_5647

Through his work in children’s programming, Mister Rogers has impacted generations of kids. I loved to watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and my daughters love Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. As a parent, I like the way the programming helps young children deal with their feelings in a positive way. I realize that, even though I didn’t know it at the time, that is what I loved about Mister Roger’s Neighborhood when I was only a few years old. The show made it OK to feel your feelings.

Rogers refused to advertise to children. He also had a disdain for anything that didn’t seem honest or straightforward. King’s interviews reveal that the soft-spoken cardigan-wearing guy wasn’t an act. It was truly how Rogers lived his life.

Rogers died in 2003 of stomach cancer at age 74. He left a legacy of promoting kindness and acceptance. What I enjoyed the most about the book was some of the quotes Fred Rogers made over the years.

I’ll leave you with this one: “When I was a boy I used to think that strong meant having big muscles, great physical power; but the longer I live, the more I realize that real strength has much more to do with what is not seen. Real strength has to do with helping others.”

In My House

Six!

Last weekend we celebrated my oldest daughter’s sixth birthday with a My Little Pony celebration at Storybook Island. My mother made the adorable cake, and we had a nice, albeit scorching hot, afternoon with family and friends. It felt good to experience that joy.

BD1

In a year that has had so many downs, my girl has been a light in our lives. She exudes joy and energy. Despite the changes to our school year, she completed kindergarten like a champ, and is excited to dive into first grade.

71

545464

Our girl is kind, social, and enthusiastic. She loves her friends, her sister, and science. She finds joy in the little things in life. I hope she never loses that excitement for life.

88