To the jenth power ...

I read the books. I watched the show. I unflinchingly wore a sunbonnet to second grade. What started as a childhood obsession has developed into .. well, an adult obsession. I'm going to visit some of the sites depicted in the Little House series of books. Go west, (not-so-) young woman, indeed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Jam Session

Well, I think it's safe to say that the last week's been a pisser. They say what doesn't kill you only makes you stranger, and I guess I'm living proof of that.

In the midst of the tragedies, my closest friends kidnapped me. They insisted last Friday afternoon that I join them for an expedition. I think they meant it as a sorry-about-your-cat-but-happy-birthday gesture. And what's a certian cure for both a broken heart and the fast approach of my dotage?

Why, strawberry picking. Of course.

Now, these friends know their way around a strawberry patch. They showed up with a car full of shallow baskets. As they unloaded a shocking number of rustic wicker containers from their vehicle, I clutched my plastic ice-cream bucket and tried to look blase. N explained that shallow containers are best, because the weight of the berries in a deeper bucket could bruise the fruit on the bottom. Never fear, said I, I only want to get a few. N dubiously eyed my plastic can and offered use of one of their more appropriate baskets. I declined, insisting that there was NO WAY I'd pick enough berries to warrant any other container.

The most amazing thing about a strawberry patch is the smell. It's unbelieveable. It's not the cloying miasma of berry odor you might imagine, but, rather, gentle wafts of strawberry scent. Granted, we were there on a breezy, cool day. I suppose that there could be a pigpen effect in more stifling conditions. But as I experienced it? Sheer awsomeness.

N explained that the easiest way to move down the rows of plants was to straddle them and bend over to rifle through the leaves and pick the berries. I tried, at first, to harvest in a ladylike manner - kneeling alongside each plant to carefully pluck the fruit. I soon realized that straddle-with-ass-in-air was the way to go, so I finshed my picking in a most dignified position.

I suppose that it goes without saying that I filled my little ice cream bucket to the brim. The thing is this, though - it didn't seem to be all that many berries when I was in the field. I'm not sure if it was the sheer expanse of the strawberry patch or the astounding amount of berries my friends gathered (they're jelly/jam makers), but I thought I had just enough for me. And then I went home. Where I realized what nine pounds of berries really means.

It means berries for lunch. For breakfast. For the neighbors. I was considering chasing random strangers down the street in order to unload my bounty when it occurred to me that I could freeze the things. So I did. I'm now the proud owner of a freezer full of strawberries.

It's kind of a neat feeling to know that I'll have those berries when it's no longer the season. In fact, I feel rather Ingalls-ish about the whole thing, enough so that I'm thinking of doing the same for blueberry season. I shared my satisfaction with N, the queen of canning and pantry-filling. She agreed. And let me know not to let my guard down ... who knows when the berry squad might just whisk me off once more ....

Days until trip: 16 (Yikes!)
Money saved: $325. (Yikes squared!)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Another Fond Farewell

Dear Hooch,

I don't believe there was ever a more jumpy, excitable pup. Or one that could disperse fur with more efficiency. Because of you, I've learned to embrace beige carpeting. You were both a dynamo and an endless font of fur bunnies.

But you were also the most loving, the kindest dog I've ever encountered. I'm glad I had you in my life for all these years. Frankly, I pity the people who originally gave you up to the shelter, because they missed the adventure of a lifetime.

I keep listening for the jingle of your collar. The house seems so empty without you. Since I've lost my butter wrapper thief, dinner preparation just hasn't been the same. And, to be honest, I'm sad about that.

We loved you, Hooch. Every minute of every day. And we always will. Thank you for the privilege of being your Ma. I don't know that I deserved you, but I always appreciated you, Hoodaman.

All my love, friend.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Fond Farewell

Dear Harley,

Buddy, you were never the easiest cat around. In fact, you were known far and wide as the cat who nips for fun. If you'd been given a Native American name, I think it might've been Growls At Everything. Or perhaps Hunts And Bloodies Dangling Limbs. But, you know what? I loved you for it. You really had a fighting spirit like no other.

I'll remember your tireless pursuit of the laser pointer beam. The times you'd carry your favorite toy around the house, yelling all the while. Hell, the fact that said beloved toy was a plush candy corn from a crane machine. I'll remember that Birkenstocks really are the best cat chew items, ever. Most importantly, I'll remember that you were one who saw me through the sturm und drang of my early adulthood. For that, I thank you.

We'll miss you, Harley. My family, my friends, even the other pets. The moles of the neighborhood may now be breathing a collective sigh of relief, but you'll be sorely missed by the rest of us, O Mighty Hunter.

Not bad for a kitten who was once abandoned on a highway. You done good, kiddo.

All my love, friend.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Cookie? Monsters!

I promised myself that I'd document the last month before my trip daily. I thought I'd write about my questions, my keen observations, my profound discoveries. But you know what? Everything I'd write just kept reminding me of that fortune cookie game. You know, the one where you add "in your pants" to the cookie's prediction:

You can be full of surprises ... in your pants.
Silence is golden .. in your pants.

Granted, these truths are self-evident, but I digress ...


Anyway, everything I'd write had the same kind of ring to it:

I ponder the weather ... on the prairie.
I can't wait to make my journey ... on the prairie.

Yuck. Dull. I didn't dare subject my four faithful readers to such crappy prose! Worse yet, it was tiresome to even type. I bored myself. Certainly, I am excited about my trip. I'm nervous, I'm curious. Am I counting the days? You bet.

But the whole thing did make me think about fortune cookies.

I went through a bit of a crisis a few years ago when I kept getting blank slips of paper in fortune cookies. My dining companions would get delightful quips, tidbits of advice, or lucky numbers. Me? Nothing but a little white wisp of paper, completely blank. This happened more than a few times. Now, I'd wager that some people might assume this was a good thing; perhaps the cookie Powers That Be felt I was on the right track and that I needed no shreds of wisdom. However, being the pessimist that I am, I was certain that it was a portent of doom, misery, and plagues by the score.

I tried to rationalize the whole thing. I reminded myself that in all the times I'd gotten a prediction, I had never gotten any kind of concrete, useful advice. My cookies never clued me in to the fact that I was dangerously close to bouncing a check. Hell, they never even had the courtesy to impart such wisdom as "Your fly is unzipped". Frankly, I'd always been the lonely loser of the fortune cookie circuit.

But, indeed, it got worse. One ominous day, I got a fortune cookie with nothing in it. Forget the blank paper angst ... this cookie had no paper at all! Nothing. It was simply a hollow confection. I'd like to say that this was a turning point in my life; that this was the moment I seized the reins of my adulthood. That I achieved full self-actualization. That the scales fell from my eyes and I became a woman of courage and integrity. If I said these things, however, I'd be lying. But I did the next best thing: I avoided fortune cookies for years.

Recently, I returned to the choppy seas of cookie prognostication. I'm glad that I did, because the fortune I got was kind of cool:

Replace your scars with stars.

... on the prairie?
... in your pants?

I'm not sure. But I love the mystery and intrigue. And the challenge!

Days until trip: 29
Money saved: $215. (Thanks, car! Did those fortune cookies give a heads-up? Nope. Damn cookies.)

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Badlands! Bad! Bad!

You know, it's really hard not to be able to do everything.

Lest you fear that I'm waxing philosophical ... I'm not. Not a bit. I'm just kvetching about all the wonderful things there are in South Dakota that are just a little bit too far away for me to see them.

Sure, I'd like to see Mount Rushmore. And Deadwood. And the Badlands - especially the Badlands. However, all of these are at least a 5+ hour drive from De Smet. I suppose that I could have structured the trip in another way that would allow for westward movement, but I was afraid that I'd end up trying to jam waaaay to much sightseeing into a one-week visit. And, to be honest, that instinct is probably spot-on. I planned this trip to check out a few of the Little House sites, and I deliberately tried to give myself time to really explore each thing. I like to think that I'll be glad I did.

But .... the Badlands. The goddam Badlands. The more I read about them, the more I really want to go. The pictures I've seen are amazing, and the descriptions I've read are compelling. I just don't know what to do. Even if I were to set aside a day ... well, it's a five-hour drive there and a five-hour drive back to De Smet. That leaves precious little time for actual, well, Badlanding, you know? It's really the sort of thing that would require quite a bit of time to adequately see. Days. Maybe even a week. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to back-burner the Badlands.

Too bad. It's sad. But to try to squeeze it in? I'd have to be mad.


Days until trip: 40
Money Saved: $485.00


Friday, June 01, 2007

The Girl's Got Baggage

I'm a worrier. I worry about paying my bills. I worry about car wrecks. I'm one of those people who can never remember if I've locked a door or turned off the stove. Even though I've never failed to lock up or shut down, that simple fact doesn't allay my fears. I'll think to myself, "Sure, you got it every other time, but what if this time isn't a false alarm, huh? What about that, champ?" And so it goes.

Another of my sterling traits is that I'm a keeper of all stuff. That's not to say that I'm a slob, because I'm not remarkably sloppy ... well, except for my car (I subscribe to the Rhoda Morgenstern school of thought: my car is a purse on wheels). I'm just always afraid that I won't have something that I really need when I really need it. This, my friends, is why I carry toothpaste in my purse (and *ahem* my glove compartment).

At any rate, the convergence of these two tendencies has an unfortunate result: I bring everything with me when I travel somewhere. I mean, everything - with a capital E. Because, God knows, a trip to the shore just isn't complete without several Lipton Cup-O-Soup packets. Should you find that you're in dire need of a suncatcher or some Q-Tips while touring a major city? I'm your gal. I'll likely be able to provide tweezers, too.

I know. I've heard all the jokes about women and the seven hundred and forty-six pairs of shoes they must take with them on vacation. I just do it in a different direction; instead of a plethora of shoes, I'll bring a smorgasbord of random things that I just might, maybe, possibly need.

Anyway, my point is that I'm going to nip this in the bud. I'm planning to take this trip with only one carry-on piece of luggage. I know it can be done. I've been reading up on it, and, to be honest, it's not a crazy goal. I mean, most of the websites about traveling light address things like packing business suits or dealing with long hikes through the rain forest. Me? I'll be in t-shirts and shorts, traveling in a rental car, and staying at a few chain hotels.

I do, however, reserve the right to bring safety pins and a few plastic forks. My threshold for minimalist travel is only so low, folks.

Days until trip: 41
Money saved: $485.00