Ninth Step: Laura Ingalls Wilder ~Exploring De Smet, SD~

Standard

De Smet, South Dakota was where we stayed the longest on our Laura road trip. This makes perfect sense considering the Ingalls lived here for quite awhile, and it is where more than half of the Little House book series takes place. There were also many things to see and places to visit while here, including seeing the town’s annual Laura pageant, which happened to be ‘By the Shores of Silver Lake,’ when we were there.

When planning this visit, I knew I wanted to stay at The Prairie House Manor Bed & Breakfast. This bed and breakfast used to be Banker Ruth’s home, who was mentioned several times in Laura’s books. It is beautiful and centrally located to many Laura stops in town. Not to mention that our hosts were very gracious, hospitable, and helpful. It was a real pleasure to stay there. It is family friendly and I loved all the little Laura touches that were sprinkled throughout the property!  The breakfast was a real treat and the kids LOVED their pancake men(just like Laura had in Little House in the Big Woods)for breakfast. It is also just a few doors down from Ma and Pa Ingalls’ last home!

In De Smet there is no forgetting that you are in Laura territory! You are able to see the Surveyor’s house that the Ingalls stayed in when they first arrived in South Dakota, the school that Laura attended, a replica of Brewster School where Laura first taught, Ma, Pa, and Mary’s final home, the Ingalls’ homestead site, the cemetery where several Ingalls were laid to rest, and more. Going on the historic home tour was very informative and a lot of fun! On this guided tour you see the Surveyor’s house, the First School, Brewster School, and Ma and Pa’s house. It also includes a stop to the gift shop, a small museum  and visit to their Discovery Center for the kids with lots of fun hands on activities.

Laura’s familie’s homestead site is a short drive away. It spans acres and is maintained as kind of a living museum. There is a wonderful gift shop with a mini theater for viewing documentary type videos, then you can can walk around the premises and visit different buildings that highlight different aspects of pioneer living. There are also many activities for you and the kids, including driving buggies and covered wagons and a lesson at the school house!

Our final event in De Smet was to see their Laura pageant, which changes each year, and was By the Shores of Silver Lake this year. It’s an outdoor show with sets, lights, and sound. The actors come from around the area to perform. It was a beautiful, if buggy, night on the prairie to see Laura come to life right on the land where her family homesteaded.

One of our last stops on our way out of town was the De Smet Cemetery where some of the Ingalls family and friends are buried, such as: Pa, Ma, Mary, Carrie, Grace, Laura and Almanzo’s baby son, Mr. Boast, and Rev. Brown. Finally, we would begin the final leg of our journey and head back east toward home. But not without a stop in a little town called Walnut Grove first….

 

Ninth Step: Laura Ingalls Wilder ~Exploring Plum Creek~

Standard

After our brief stop in Pepin, Wisconsin, we continued on our Laura journey to Minnesota. This included a stop at Sod House on the Prairie . This was a really fun stop! Here you can see several different types of housing that was common on the prairie during Laura’s time, including types of sod housing like the Ingalls lived in at Plum Creek. I remember when reading, On the Banks of Plum Creek, that Ma lamented at having to live in a dugout. Though Laura is a master of description, I still couldn’t wrap my brain around how this whole thing worked. Sod House on the Prairie filled in some of those gaps for me.

The sod houses had their challenges, but looked surprisingly more livable than I had imagined. It was a hot sunny day when we visited, but the prairie winds kept you feeling cool and inside the sod houses with their packed dirt floors, shade, and open windows it was even cooler. We were the only ones visiting at the time we were there, so we could take our time checking everything out at our leisure. Though this site does not operate as a bed and breakfast anymore(what a neat experience that would have been!), there are bonnets and aprons to help you get into character during your visit and to snap a few fun photos. The homes are furnished with period items to try out and explore as well. The kids loved looking through the braille books like Mary’s, sitting at the tables, trying out the beds, and climbing ladders to look in lofts. One of their favorites was encountering the free roaming cats and kittens that have made the houses their homes.

 

After Sod House on the Prairie we went to Plum Creek to see where the Ingalls’ dugout was! This was my favorite stop of the whole road trip…..I think. 🙂 It was amazing to wade and play in Plum Creek, knowing that we were truly walking in Laura’s foot prints! The creek is on a farm that is maintained in its natural condition. They have provided a turnaround, garbage cans and few picnic benches for visitors near the creek, and a foot bridge over the creek to reach the dugout site, which is marked by a sign. Other than that, you are welcome to climb down into the ankle deep creek and play in nature to your heart’s content. The water is clear, the trees are beautiful and provide a quiet little retreat where you can walk in the waters and look for pretty rocks or find minnows and frogs. We stayed here for a couple hours just enjoying ourselves. We packed a lunch as well to munch on. For that, we walked across the foot bridge to read the sign marking the dugout site and to see the beautiful prairie behind it and try to imagine where Ingalls’ beautiful house may have been. (To see many more of our pictures from this  stop click here to see a previous post.)

Following our stop at Plum Creek, it was on to De Smet, South Dakota!

Seventh Step: Julia Child ~Exploring~

Standard

Julia Child has been so much fun to learn about! She was an amazing woman with such spirit and so inspiring! I’ve enjoyed reading her cookbooks, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She was one of those people who just got it. I think that’s why she seemed so happy. She knew what was important and didn’t let anything hold her back!

Julia has inspired us to do a lot of cooking lately! We tried her incredible recipe for Potato Leek Soup. Who knew such a simple recipe could render such a wonderful, flavorful soup? We did add a bit of cream to it, and it is now a staple on cold days here in Chicago! We also have been taking monthly cooking classes at Marcel’s, a wonderful shop with talented chefs and fantastic classes, in downtown Glen Ellyn. The classes were so much fun for Beatrice to attend. They really do a wonderful job there with the kids. While there, Beatrice has made cherry cobbler(which we’ve made at home twice now since the class), pizza pinwheels, dips, sandwiches, salads, and decorated some yummy cupcakes. It’s been a joy for both of us.

We’ve had some other fun experiences too. We expanded our library while learning about Julia and picked up some new cookbooks and picture books that we’ve read and created from. Our love affair with Master Chef Jr. continues, but we also added some episodes of The French Chef with Julia Child into the mix as well. I still haven’t seen all of Julie & Julia, but it’s coming up! For links to all the shows and books mentioned, plus other Julia items, check out our Pinterest board, Julia

.

Fifth Step: Rockford Peaches and the AAGPBL ~Exploring~

Standard

Before our big move to Oregon we managed to make it up to Rockford,IL to see Beyer Field, the Peaches home field. There isn’t much left of what was originally there, but the brick entryway where patrons would enter and ticket windows are still there. The field is in the midst of being restored with new amenities being added every year and a new team calls Beyer Field home, the Rockford Starfires. We didn’t get to see a game there but we did get to a little sneak into the Midway Village Museum. Unfortunately, they were closed to the public the one day we could go out there! 😦 However, someone there did let us into the gift shop and we got Peach bobble head, a t-shirt and we got see some pictures of the Peaches that were hanging in the halls. I was so bummed to miss the actual museum. Argh! So, no game and no museum. The trip felt a little like a bust but we did go to fabulous children’s museum while we were in town and the kids had fun and got to see a little bit of history. 🙂

Fourth Step: Jane Austen ~Exploring~

Standard

Ack! Life has thrown me for a loop the last couple of months and the blog as suffered for it. Time to get back on the wagon! After moving from my lifelong home in the Midwest to the Oregon Coast I have finally settled in enough to whip out a couple of blog posts. Admittedly, part of the problem is that it is summer too. The kids are home. All day. It is exhausting and I don’t get a minute to myself. The days keep slipping by without much getting done, but I’m going to try  and embrace it rather than let it drive me crazy. 🙂

For Jane Austen I had intended to do some different activities, but due to the interest of the kids, all activities pointed toward tea parties! I was perfectly fine with that! We got to bake and learn about the history of tea and how to make a good cuppa. A book that I really enjoyed reading and was a great resource was, ‘Tea with Jane Austen,’ by Kim Wilson(see links for many things mentioned and pictured on my Pinterest board for Jane). I also found some Marvel graphic novel adaptations of Jane Austen books such as; ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ and ‘Emma.’ They were right up my alley as a comic fan and fun for the kids to look at because of all the pictures. 🙂 Another fun find was ‘The Beautifull Cassandra,’ a story written by Jane Austen when she was 12 years old. It was great to show the kids that even as a young girl Austen was writing and honing her craft, she didn’t have to wait until she was an adult to do something she loved! While searching for activities for the kids I came across some Jane Austen themed temporary tattoos and had to get them. 🙂 The kids loved them and I’ll admit I got a kick out of them too. Temporary is a relative term for these tattoos, lol! They adhered to the kids skin for weeks! Finally, we used some alcohol wipes to clean them off when we wanted some new ones. I was really impressed with their staying power! They obviously don’t fit in with the Regency era of activities, but I couldn’t pass them up!

We had a few fun outings during our time as well. We went to a lavender festival at Helvetia Lavender Farm here in Oregon and had some lavender tea and scones with berries while enjoying the most beautiful view up in the hills. We also got to cut our own lavender to make some lavender infused goodies for tea parties at home. The lavender lemonade was delicious! We also visited La Tea Da in Tillamook, Oregon, a wonderful tea house that really knows how to enjoy tea! We ate among antique decor on a myriad of beautifully decorated china, and all the accouterments that comes with a proper tea party. They also had a back room with some dress up items for the kids to enjoy. It was so fun, and the food and tea so tasty, we went back again a week later!  I think we may finally be ready to throw a tea party of our own! 🙂