Books

One Book South Dakota: The Children’s Blizzard

I read David Laskin’s true account, The Children’s Blizzard, some time ago, so I was interested when Melanie Benjamin’s novel by the same name was announced as the 2021 One Book South Dakota. Benjamin takes the true story and tells it through fictional characters, two sisters who are schoolteachers. When the blizzard hits and the main characters, like many actual school teachers during that storm, have to choose between trying to flee their one-room schoolhouses and get their students to safety, or hunker down with what little food and firewood they had. Each sister reacts differently, resulting in very different outcomes.

More than 200 people died in the blizzard, which ravaged Dakota Territory on January 12, 1888. These were seasoned homesteaders who were quite used to harsh Midwest winters, but what took everyone off guard was the sunny weather that morning and the extreme speed of that particular storm. It hit mid-day as well so students had already made the long trek on foot or horseback to their primitive school houses.

(Image from amazon.com)

Both books also remind us of the extreme hardships of early homesteaders in the Midwest, especially during a natural disaster. Schools had very few supplies, such as enough firewood, and teachers were usually very young and inexperienced. Mothers who had already lost babies and young children during childbirth or to disease found themselves mourning yet again.

I definitely recommend reading both books. Laskin’s book is a fascinating account of how homesteaders arrived in Dakota Territory from Europe and the many struggles they faced. He also writes about the meteorological aspect of the blizzard and why it caught so many people off-guard. Benjamin’s book brings that story to life through interesting characters who are very human in what drives their decisions, both good and bad, when faced with hardship.

Books

Books: Talking to the Ground

Talking to the Ground was another book I grabbed on a whim off our local library’s shelves when I was there with my daughters. In the early 1990s, Douglas Preston, his fiancée, and her nine-year-old daughter embarked on a 400-mile horseback journey through the Navajo desert. They wanted to get closer with nature and with one another.

During the trip they were completely reliant on each other, their own strength, their horses, and the kindness of strangers they encountered along the way. They packed everything they needed on two pack horses, each rode one of their own, and were accompanied by an energetic dog. They searched for water, endured dust storms, and slept under the stars.

I will admit at first I thought the author was out of his mind. He had been on similar journeys before by himself, but now bringing along a child with limited riding experience? There are steep cliffs. Water is scarce. There are scorpions!

The book came out in the late 1990s. I related to nine-year-old Selene (I was nine in 1992, too) who brought a Gameboy and copy of “Matilda” on the trip. It would be interesting to get her account of the trip now as a 38-year-old woman looking back.

Talking to the Ground is rich with Navajo history, and real, boots-on-the-ground journalism. It also is an honest account of a family with a changing dynamic. Selene and her future stepfather become closer during the journey. Overall, it is a touching account of a new family learning about one another through extreme conditions.

In My House

Seven!

We celebrated our oldest daughter’s seventh birthday last weekend with an ice-cream-themed party at a park in our little town.

My mom has made all seven of my daughter’s birthday cakes and continues to do an awesome job.

Our girl is a kind and sweet soul. She is determined, enthusiastic, and funny.

She is blessed with a great group of friends who came to celebrate the day with her.

We gave away ice cream dishes and frozen treat-themed erasers.

The weather was great and the kids had a blast.

Happy birthday to our dear seven-year-old. I hope the next year is filled with fun adventures for you!

Food

Georgia Peach Muffins

It has been a long time since I have posted a recipe, but these peach muffins were too delicious not to share. My parents’ friend sent them fresh peaches from Georgia and they were kind enough to share some with us. They are juicy and delectable on their own, but even more scrumptious in these muffins.

Here is an obligatory messy kitchen photo. If your counter doesn’t look at least this messy when you’re baking you’re better than me. This is even without the kids being involved in the process. They were at the park with my husband.

I adapted this recipe from an apple muffin recipe found in a small-town compilation cookbook. Aren’t those the best? The sweet peaches made them tangy and delicious.

The recipe makes a dozen peach muffins. My family devoured most of them within 24 hours. Of course the Georgia peaches made them extra delicious, but I think any grocery store peaches this time of year would do the trick if you let them ripen a bit before baking.

Recipe:

Topping:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. With a fork, work in the butter until crumbly and refrigerate while preparing the muffins.

Muffins:

3 peaches, diced
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Whisk in the sour cream, milk, vanilla, and melted butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg.

Stir in the diced peaches.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Pour in the sour cream/peach mixture all at once and stir, just to moisten. The batter should be lumpy.

Spoon into muffin cups.

Quickly crumble the topping over the muffins.

Bake at 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a baking rack.

Adventures

All 50 by 40: Michigan (Mission Accomplished)

I finally did it. I visited Michigan, which means I have officially visited all 50 states, almost two full years ahead of schedule. My husband, daughters, and I rented a condo on Lake Michigan for a few days over the Fourth of July.

We enjoyed swimming, playing games, miniature golfing, a butterfly museum, and lots of ice cream. I grew quite used to strolling along the beach at sunset every evening after dinner. We were in Michigan during the National Cherry Festival which meant pie, delicious roadside cherries, and a carnival.

A highlight for us was hiking Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The sand was so soft the kids could roll around in it. Hiking through it gave us a good leg workout, which I needed because it is no secret I enjoy eating on vacation.

So now what? I have no intentions of starting over and visiting all 50 a second time around, but I do want to revisit a few favorites. We are also looking forward to some international travel in the next couple of years. Also, we want to spend more time enjoying the beautiful area we call home.

Thank you for joining me on this journey!

Books

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.

Adventures

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.

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(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.