Big Trip to a Little House

Hello all!

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Where is THIS exciting place?  Read on to find out!  🙂 

Guess what?  I FINISHED the manuscript I’ve been working on!  HOORAY!  I’m, like, totally sane and calm and organized now!  (ha ha ha!)

OK, well, that might be stretching the truth a bit (I do still have a baby, after all), but at least I feel much much less frantic.  Yay!  So I can focus on all those neglected important things, like responding to emails and blogging and catching up on new TV premieres.  🙂

So far my vote is YES to Nikita – any show where the heroine strolls out in front of a van full of bad guys, dressed all in black leather, and starts shooting at them with a giant gun kind of inherently makes me happy.  She’s so tough!  And she’s saving the day!  With her super-toughness!  Actually, I feel like TV has been sorely lacking in kick-ass girls since Buffy and Alias and Veronica Mars (and The Sarah Connor Chronicles! although I’m not talking about Sarah Connor, mind you) went off the air, so I’m pretty excited about Nikita.  Sarah on Chuck is awesome, but that show’s not about her (or else it would be called Sarah.  Would anyone watch a show called Sarah?  Hmmm.  I wonder.).

Raising Hope was, as I predicted, tough to watch, because it makes me MUCH TOO ANXIOUS to see a baby in a 400-year-old car seat being fed from a rubber glove when I feel like I spend my whole day worrying about BPA and organic fruit and food allergies and crib bumpers and bacteria and basically protecting my baby from everything in the universe.  So, cute cast, but I may be at the wrong stage of life for this show (which is to say, the ridiculous stage).

And Hawaii 5-0 was fun, but I don’t really watch cop shows.  Although I loved the moment when Danno’s cell phone went off and the ringtone was the knife-attack sound from Psycho, and immediately you knew that that was his ex-wife and you knew everything you needed to know about that relationship without ever seeing her or hearing him say one word to her.  Awesome character bit; probably even enough to get me to watch another episode or two, since there’s also Boomer from Battlestar Galactica (Boomer!).  :-)  But once I get really busy again, it’ll probably fall by the wayside.

Still catching up on the others – oh, except for The Event, which, what?  What is that show?  What is happening?  Why must everything be SO CRYPTIC?  Is it about aliens?  Because it seems like it might be about aliens.  And I wonder how people tuning in for a big conspiracy thriller will feel if it turns out to be aliens.  The funny part is that the whole cruise storyline reminded me of this Lifetime movie called Deadly Honeymoon where a girl’s new husband mysteriously disappeared while they were on their honeymoon cruise, which I swear I only watched because Summer Glau starred in it, and I was hoping there would be an EXCITING TWIST and DARK SECRETS about the husband and what happened to him, but it turned out to be completely ridiculous and as predictable as you’d think (seriously, try to guess the ending, and you’ll be right), which, frankly, left me feeling a little betrayed, Summer.  (Oh, who am I kidding.  I’ll still watch you in anything!)

HOWEVER!  I have been doing things besides watching TV and frantically finishing a manuscript!  In fact, the baby and his wonderful grandparents and two dogs and I went on a THRILLING RESEARCH ADVENTURE last week!

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Tada!

YES.  We drove all the way to Malone, New York (with a stop in Burlington, thank goodness) to visit the Almanzo Wilder Homestead.  I hope to goodness that means something to all of you, because I am writing a book about Almanzo, and everyone should know who he is!

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That’s right: he’s the guy who married Laura Ingalls Wilder—the star of Farmer Boy, the hero who saved the town in The Long Winter, the kind-hearted gentleman caller of These Happy Golden Years.  He’s a fantastically lovable character in the Little House books, and he was a real person who really lived in this actual farmhouse 150 years ago.

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There are several Little House sites you can still visit today, but Malone is the only one where the actual building from the books is still standing.  Isn’t that crazy?  Imagine getting to step inside Meg Murry’s home from A Wrinkle in Time, or visit Camp Green Lake from Holes.  That’s what it’s like being at the Wilder Homestead if you’ve read Farmer Boy.  These are the barns where Almanzo took care of his oxen and his beloved horse Starlight!

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Well, the barns are recreated, but they feel very authentic.  :-)  You can easily imagine Almanzo helping with the sheep-shearing or milking the cows…and if you need help, a splendid tour guide will show you how everything works and where the different scenes could have happened.  My guide Dorothy was marvelous and extremely patient with my goofy obsessive questions (like, “so where did the baby sleep?” – the “master” bedroom is WAY too tiny for a crib!).

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You can’t take pictures inside, so if you’re curious about what all the rooms look like, you’ll have to visit the place yourself!  It’s a two-hour drive from Burlington, Vermont, and surprisingly close to Canada (we literally drove by the border crossing), and QUITE cold (OK, maybe just the day we were there, but it was only September!  How did they survive January??  With no central heating???)

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Perhaps they had puppies to snuggle with?  🙂 

The most surprising thing to me was that the place was smaller than I’d pictured in my head.  The Wilders were pretty well-off, especially compared to Laura’s family, so it’s impressive for the time, but it’s still really pioneer-style living, with everyone cozily squished in on top of one another and tree logs with the bark still on them holding up the barn. 

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Spot the splendid grandmama and baby in this photo!

One of the things I love about Almanzo is how much he loves to eat.  (Kind of like our baby!  You have never seen a tiny person put away this much yogurt/bananas/sweet potato/Cheerios.  Seriously.  It’s rather astonishing.)  Farmer Boy has all these lengthy descriptions of his meals and how much he ate at each one.  You can kind of imagine Laura being like, “I CANNOT BELIEVE how much my husband can eat!”  And when you read about how little her family sometimes had to eat in comparison, I feel like there’s a bit of food envy there, too.

The book I’m writing is a sequel of sorts to Farmer Boy.  Ever wonder what happened to Almanzo between the end of Farmer Boy and Laura’s first glimpse of him in By the Shores of Silver Lake?  Well, now you can find out!  :-)  (Well, not “now” exactly; you have to wait until the book comes out.  I know, the suspense!)  It’s called Almanzo Wilder Goes West and it’s about the Wilders’ move to Spring Valley, Minnesota (another site you can visit), and it’ll hopefully be available in early 2012 (don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted!).  ;-)  In the book, Almanzo’s youngest brother Perley had recently been born, so there’s a BABY in the story!  Yes!  Extreme cuteness!  I’ve done plenty of research on THAT!  😉

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Intrepid patient baby on one of many tremendously enriching and educational trips that he won’t remember

Many of the photos (the good ones!) in this blog, by the way, were taken by my dad (the most excellent grandfather in the photo above), who also helped with driving and watched the dogs and was SO SO SO MUCH APPRECIATED!  I couldn’t have done this (rather long) trip without him and Mom, who was also beyond wonderful and hung out with the baby while I took notes on Almanzo’s home.  Yay Mom and Dad!  We love you!

A bazillion thank-yous to the ladies at the Wilder Homestead, too, who were so welcoming and warm and friendly and informative and generally amazing: thank you, Sandra, Dorothy, Kathy, and Gail!  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your help and fabulousness! 

Sunshine and Jonah were also perfect traveling companions on this trip – it was a loooong time in the car for a tiny person (and for a tiny dog!), and they were both unbelievably good and sweet about the whole thing.

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AHEM.  Aren’t you forgetting someone?

Oh, yes – Maui was very good, too!  🙂

Anyway, it was kind of a crazy adventure in the middle of my frenzy about this other manuscript I was working on, but in the end I am so glad we went.  It was an extremely inspiring trip, and I highly recommend visiting the site, especially if you love Almanzo in the Little House books as much as I do!  And I hope when the book comes out that you’ll all gallop out and read it and like it, too! 

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Thank you, Wilder Homestead!  Yay for Little House!

And on an entirely different note, everyone should go vote for Jonah’s friend Charlie in the Gap baby casting call!  (There’s two different photos of him you can vote for – I suggest voting for both!)  :-)  Seriously, this kid is too cute for words.  I would buy anything he was wearing!  :-)  He’d be a perfect baby model!  And he’s a lovely adorable snugglebug too.  Jonah wants him to win!  Fingers crossed for Charlie!

Now that I am a person with a functioning brain again, hopefully the next few blogs will be all wise and insightful and fascinating.  OR they might be about TV.  I mean, The Amazing Race has just started again!  Doesn’t everyone want to hear what I think about that?  😉

Happy autumn, everyone!

Quote of the Day:
Eliza Jane was hurrying and nagging.
“Be careful you don’t spill the polish,” she said, busily dusting.
Almanzo guessed he knew enough not to spill stove polish.  But he didn’t say anything.
“Use less water, Almanzo.  And mercy! rub harder than that!”  He didn’t say anything.
Eliza Jane went into the parlor to dust it.  She called: “Almanzo, that stove done now?”
“No,” said Almanzo.
“Goodness! don’t dawdle so!”
Almanzo muttered, “Whose boss are you?”

— from Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder