Tagged: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Literary Vacations to Story Settings


Have you ever taken a trip to see a specific location because it was the setting of a book? Or the setting of a movie or tv show based on a book?

I’ve been to a couple Laura Ingalls Willder sites (DeSmet, S.D., and Mansfield, Mo.), and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the setting of Anne of Green Gables (Prince Edward Island, Canada).

This summer I’ve read three kids’ books (Hitty, Her First Hundred Years; The Penderwicks at Point Mouette; and The Sign of the Beaver) set in Maine, and I didn’t realize any of these were Maine books before I started. They rekindled my desire to visit Maine.

Someday, I also want to see New Zealand, where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were filmed. New Zealand made such a beautiful Shire, Rivendell, Rohan, and Gondor.

How about you? What story settings have you visited? Where do you want to visit?

Summer Reading


Books I may read this summer. I’ve already started several. Photo by Deb Watley

I read a lot in the summer.

That’s been true since I was a kid. Summers meant long, unscheduled days and lots of reading time. The best part was that I didn’t have to do any reading for school, so I could follow my own interests.

That meant reading and rereading animal stories, the Nancy Drew series, and books by Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder. As an adult I still like to reread favorites once in a while, but that is not an exclusively summer thing for me.

Now my summer reading habits aren’t much different from the rest of the year, except when I travel or go to the pool. Then I want books that don’t take too much concentration and aren’t too dark or sad.

My one summer reading habit is that I love to read Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries books while I’m at our local wave pool. I’ve read so many while soaking up the sun and listening to lapping water that those things are linked for me.

I recently heard someone say that each summer he reads about America’s Founding Fathers. I hadn’t thought before about focusing an entire summer on one topic or one author. That could be a rewarding experience.

Do you adjust your reading habits for summer (types of books, locations, etc.)? Do you make a summer reading list, read best-sellers, old favorites, one series? What constitutes a summer read for you?


Recently I was perusing the shelves of a used bookstore, and I ran across a book that made me stop in disbelief: LAURA INGALLS WILDER’S FAIRY POEMS!

Could it be true? Did one of my favorite authors write poems about fairies?

I checked the publisher to make sure it was a legitimate book.


Okay. It must be so.


I bought the book.

It was published in 1998. The poems were compiled by Stephen W. Hines, an expert on Wilder and her newspaper columns. Hines also wrote an introduction for the book explaining how the fairy poems came to be.

In 1915, Wilder was visiting her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, in San Francisco. Lane was a writer, too, and wrote some poetry for the San Francisco Bulletin. But, she was so busy at the time that Wilder wrote some for her. Wilder usually wrote about farming and chickens for a rural newspaper, but she also enjoyed writing poetry.

Fairies may seem like a huge departure from Wilder’s writings about chickens, farming, and homesteading that we are most familiar with, but Wilder’s writings also showed her love of nature. And her fairy poems are really charming nature poems. Plus, Laura had a childlike imagination and, of course, later wrote for children.

The book’s illustrations by Richard Hull are also fun.

After reading the book, I was surprised to find another Wilder-fairy connection. A post on The Cottonwood Tree reprinted a 1922 newspaper column in which Wilder retells a fairy story.

Did you know Wilder wrote fairy poems? What unexpected literary treasures have you found at bookstores? Used bookstores? Yard sales? Libraries?

Summer Means Ice Cream

Big Stock Photo

Big Stock Photo

Last week I wrote about one of the staples of summer–roller coasters. However, another one of the much-loved things about summer is ice cream.

On a hot day, it’s a treat to open the freezer, take out the container of ice cream, and scoop out a bowl-full of the cold, creamy good stuff.

In the past ice cream was an extra special treat because if you wanted some, you needed cream, eggs, and sugar–all of which might be in short supply. But first, months earlier, you had to cut ice out of a lake or pond and store it until you wanted it.

In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, Farmer Boy, Wilder relates a story about a time Almanzo and his siblings are home alone and decide to make ice cream for themselves:

They dug a block of ice out of the sawdust and….pounded it with hatchets till the ice was crushed. Alice came out to watch them while she whipped egg-whites on a platter. She beat them with a fork, till they were too stiff to slip when she tilted the platter.

Eliza Jane measured milk and cream, and dipped up sugar from the barrel in the pantry. It was not common maple sugar, but white sugar bought from the store. Mother used it only when company came. Eliza Jane dipped six cupfuls….

She made a big milk-pail full of yellow custard. They set the pail in a tub and packed the snowy crushed ice around it, with salt, and the covered it all with a blanket. Every few minutes they took off the blanket and uncovered the pail, and stirred the freezing ice-cream….

They could eat all the ice-cream and cake they wanted to; no one would stop them.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful–except for all the work and waiting?

I confess, I’ve never liked homemade ice cream. I’m a hard-packed ice cream girl. And I like my ice cream with bits of chocolate, nuts, or peanut butter in it.

What’s your favorite ice cream? Do you make homemade ice cream?

Little Author in the Big Woods Giveaway

Little Author in the Big Woods by Yona Zeldis McDonough, illus. by Jennifer Thermes

Little Author in the Big Woods by Yona Zeldis McDonough, illus. by Jennifer Thermes

To celebrate a year of blogging I’m giving away the book Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Yona Zeldis McDonough and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes (2014, Christy Ottaviano Books, 156 pages).

This is a delightful biography aimed at early elementary-aged children. The illustrations and book design give it the familiar Little House feel.

To enter, comment and let me know if you’ve been to any of the Little House sites or museums. (I’ve been to DeSmet, S.D., and Mansfield, Mo.) I will randomly choose a winner (U.S. commenters only) and post the winner’s name on Feb. 24.

Primary Resource: Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mariah on the Move

Flickr: Creative Commons–Mariah on the Move by Pete Markham (2008, Lake Elmo, MN)


Winters in the Dakotas are cold, but some are extremely cold. The winter of 1883-84 was one of the extreme ones.

That winter Laura Ingalls was teaching during the week at a country school outside of DeSmet, Dakota Territory (now South Dakota). The school was far enough away she boarded with the family of one of school board members. But Almanzo Wilder picked her up on Friday so she could be home with her family over the weekend. One Friday was especially cold.

“All day the snow blew low across the prairie and toward night it grew colder still….

With my mind made up to staying, I did not listen for the sleigh bells as I always did when four o’clock drew near. I usually heard them while they were still some distance away, but disappointment had so dulled my hearing that I was completely taken by surprise when there was a dashing jingle of bells at the door….

I dressed warmly, high necks and long sleeves in both underclothes and dress, two warm petticoats woolen stockings, and high shoes. I wore a heavy coat, a thick, wool, knit hood, two thicknesses of woolen veil over my face the ends wrapped tied around my neck.

There was a heavy blanket under the buffalo robe over our laps and tucked tightly in around us and a lighted lantern underneath among our feet which added a great deal to the warmth….

About every two miles the frost from the horses’ breath would become frozen over their nostrils so they could not breathe. Then we would stop and Mr Wilder would climb out into the cold and the snow, cover each nose with his hands an instant and then he could strip the ice of[f], climb back into the cutter and we would go on. At times he would slip one hand beneath the robes, out of the wind into the warmth from the lantern, for a few minutes.”

–From Pioneer Girl, Laura’s autobiography written in 1930 and published in 2014.

I am so glad for cars with heaters!!

Does anyone know why Almanzo, as well as other settlers, put bells on sleighs? Were the bells just for fun, or did they serve a purpose?

Spring Cleaning: Past and Present

Big Stock Photo

Big Stock Photo

Today is April 2. Have you done your spring cleaning yet? Me, either.

Years ago, women would do a huge spring clean. Perhaps wood or coal-burning stoves and furnaces had something to do with that. As soon as the weather was nice enough, their houses would get a good airing-out and cleaning.

In the Little House books, set in the late 1800s, Laura Ingalls Wilder describes the annual event. Laura’s mother, Laura, and her sisters would empty the house of its furniture, empty and refill the mattresses for their beds, scrub the floors, etc. Whew! I have it easy!

I don’t remember my mom having a big spring cleaning tradition. If she did, she must have cleaned while my siblings and I were at school and out-of-the-way. But, when the weather would get nice and we had a clothesline, she’d start hanging wet laundry outside to dry.

I don’t do really do a huge spring clean, either. But, every spring I sweep out the garage, wash and put away the winter coats, snow pants, hats and gloves, and have my minivan detailed–and not all on the same day. This year I’m also cleaning my kitchen cabinets with Liquid Gold.

What spring cleaning traditions did your family have? What do you do now?