Pioneer Girl

Pioneer Girl

Pioneer Girl
Beautiful cover and book

I grew up in small towns of Kansas but never lived on a farm.  I had friends that did and I spent the night with families on their ranches and farms in both south central and north-eastern Kansas.  My brothers worked on farms for extra money during holidays and summer vacation.  They learned to detassel corn, put up hay, and plow.  They loved the hot meals that they received as partial payment for their services.  And they especially loved when tractor cabs were equipped with a radio and much later air conditioning.  None of my brothers chose farming as a full-time occupation.  Prairie life is full of daily chores, the caring of animals, and paying attention to the weather. A hard but rewarding life for those with an appreciation and love of the land. As a child, I loved reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books and worked my way through all nine of them lickety-split.  I loved the television show too.  Through her writings, she shared both the joys and the trials of life on the prairie.  And she helped me to understand the history and heritage that surrounded me growing up in the Midwest.

Laura and Farm Boy

More than eighty years after it was first written, the memoir, that is the basis for her children’s book series was handwritten in pencil on Big Chief tablets, was published in 2014 as Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill.  I ordered it last month (second printing) as well as a collection of the nine books that followed the writing of the memoir.  I devoured the memoir in one setting and can’t wait to find time to go back and read more carefully all of the annotations.  They are rich with details and additional information about the characters that I have grown to appreciate and love — even the sharp-tongued Nellie Oleson.

If you want to learn more about the book, please check out

Carrie, Mary and Laura
Wart Girl

Wart Girl

In fourth grade, I was the girl with the warts. The prior summer, while swimming in the local creek, I had played with some little frogs and was convinced by my brothers that they were the cause of the little cauliflower bumps that graced my knees, elbows, and hands that school year.  By the time I was taken to the doctor, mine didn’t magically disappear as in my brothers’ cases, I had over fifty of these ugly bumps on my skin and more were appearing on a daily basis.  My mother was concerned, you know the look, and took me to see our family physician, Dr. Ball.  The  recommended treatment was to burn them all off during one visit so there were no warts left behind that could spread and create more warts.  I think we knew that warts were caused by a virus, not amphibians, by then,  but the treatment plan seemed harsh by today’s standards especially for a ten-year old.  Dr. Ball would burn them all except for a really massive on my right knee.  I would have to go to a specialist in Wichita and have the big one removed by freezing it to death with liquid nitrogen.  My mother took off work to take me on a school day to have the first set burned off. I had no idea what to expect and had not asked any questions as innocent children are prone to do.

The steps in burning off warts in 1970 included first using a needle to inject some local anesthesia into the area around the wart, then he slipped a small metal plate under my leg (it grounded me) and then he used a gun-like device with a hot tip to cauterized the wart, leaving behind an open sore not unlike a cigarette burn.  He covered each sore with an antiseptic solution and a band-aid and continued this process until he had removed every one of the little buggers except for the biggin on my knee.  I didn’t cry until it was all over when I realized just how many band-aids I had all over my little body as well as the first hint of a searing sensation emittIng from each sore.   Mom cried too and she gave me a hug and took me home to share this terrible experience with the not so sympathetic males that lived with us at 321 N. Main.  I remember they counted the bandages to make sure I wasnt exaggerating.

In a couple of weeks it was my Dad’s turn to take me to Wichita to the specialist. Once again, one of us kids required a parental unit to miss work.  I don’t know how they did it with four kids and both working full-time.   Well, I do know how they did it and it was a lot of sacrifice and hard work. This trip I asked lots of questions beforehand.  Not so innocent anymore.  The procedure wasn’t too bad; it was the aftermath that was hell.  The procedure involved carefully pouring out the freezing agent onto swabs and then applying to the area around the massive wart.  Oh, yeah, he did the deadening trick first with the needle and it hurt quite a bit but the nitrogen was just super cold on my flesh.  He also applied a big bandage and sent me on my way back home.  Dad took me to a nice restaurant for lunch but in the middle of the meal, the deadening effect wore off and my knee stung so much that I couldn’t sit still.  It hurt all the way home and I remember my dad trying to comfort me but it was a long car ride home for both of us.  The area just seemed to sluff off over the next few days.

I thought the worst was behind me and I celebrated no longer being the wart girl.  A week or so later, I woke up for school and didn’t feel well but Mom sent me off to class because I didn’t have a fever.  I remember sitting at my little wooden desk and feeling worse and worse.  After recess, I noticed that my groin and leg were throbbing.  I finally complained to my teacher and she sent me to the school nurse.  The nurse checked me out and decided she needed to see my leg so she had me remove my pants.  We both noticed a weird cherry red line traveling from the top of my knee headed straight to my groin; the same leg that had the massive wart just a few days prior.

Immediately telephone calls were made and I was whisked back to Dr. Ball’s office.  The treatment this time was three days bed rest, I wasn’t allowed to move the leg or I would have to be put in the hospital, heavy antibiotics, and regular cleansing with hydrogen peroxide — the stuff that bubbles when It comes in contact with nasty stuff.  While this was a drag, I began to feel better almost immediately after the first dose of antibiotic.

The treatment worked, I returned to school, my parents returned to work and my leg was intact to jump rope and run again.  My body still has the scars from my wart girl days but they have faded and are symbolic of a childhood filled with the misadventure and fortitude of a good Kansas girl. I never had a wart again.

wart girl

oh, bohemia!

oh, bohemia!

Plaid shirts and beards are now a fashion statement, referred to as the “lumbersexual-look.”  My mother called it bohemian. My brothers had this appearance back in  the1980’s… proof is this fabuloso photo.  We were all home for Christmas on Wisconsin Ave. in Holton, Kansas, that year. We were under 28 and finding our way.  I was just starting college and home for the school break.  How many pictures did we pose for on that neon green couch?  Neon was cool then and is back again as I wore my neon yellow jacket to work last week and my neon pink one the week prior.  With neon, you have to space out your wearings ’cause people notice.  My brothers were scruffy but clean, yes, in this line-up?  If you are going with untidy, you must be clean.  The bohemian look has resurfaced again in today’s culture especially at Apple Stores and in coffee shops. Not sure if the wide suspenders have made a come back but why not?  My father, called it the “jesus-look”.  Nice coming from a church deacon.

Ed, Tom, Mike and Blogger in 1980

I married one as well.  How do you know if your mate leans this way?  Below are some clues:

1.  Loves Ron Swanson

2.  His drink of choice is a neat glass of scotch and if he has a beer it must be craft and in a glass

3. He wears a lot of flannel

4.  Uses a circular saw

5.  Cooks with local ingredients and grows his own herbs and vegetables

6. Wears a mix of Land’s End, LL Bean and Carhartt

7. Has a beard…duh!

8.  He romanticizes EVERYTHING

9. He looks rustic enough to come from a small town in the Midwest but is willing to navigate a city

10.  Likes the outdoors as long as he has wireless access at all times

The Bavarian and Blogger
Little traffic light man

Little traffic light man

The East German pedestrian traffic light symbols, or‚ Ampelmännchen (little traffic light man) are Berlin born and bred. They came into being in 1961, the year I was born, when, in response to the growing threat of road traffic accidents, the traffic psychologist, Karl Peglau introduced the first pedestrian signals to the GDR capital. And so the vehicle traffic light, was joined by the pedestrian traffic light. Its design was psychologically conceived, because road-users react more quickly to appealing symbols. I know we did.  Prior to German reunification in 1990, the two German states had different forms for the Ampelmännchen, with a generic human figure in West Germany, and a generally male figure wearing a hat in the east.
A Store
Berlin Flagship store — I dropped a few euros.
RM and I followed this guy all over Berlin, and he kept us safe, and he became so endearing that we had to go to the flagship store and bring back a few images of him to the states.
Too clever.
As a feminist, I wondered about a female version.  In 2004,  a female version was introduced as Ampelmännchen, the Ampelfrau, which was installed on some traffic lights in Dresden and other locations around Germany.  I would follow her too.


Well, I am not sure you can get lost these days while traveling with all the available technology including GPS and cell phones but it can certainly take you longer to get some place. I have traveled extensively these last three weeks and  found myself lost on several occassions mostly when dealing with trains and subway connections.

 In Berlin, RM and I arrived early to the massive and impressive new train station (see below) to find our departure gate to Munich; our next leg in our journey across Germany. We found Gate 2 as listed on the posted timetable, rambled around with our suitcases until we found the platform and waited for our train.  A train arrived but RM and I were not sure how the reserved seating worked so we asked the conductor to explain.  She quickly pointed out that our train had departed on time two platforms over at Gate 4.   We nearly jumped on the wrong one headed to Frankfurt. We learned that trains in Germany change gates often even within the last few minutes before departure so you have to keep your eyes peeled to the electronic message board for the inevitable last minute changes.  We regrouped to learn another train departed in an hour which would get us to Munich only two hours later than originally planned.  We arrived at our new gate number, after using the extra time to explore the train station and sip a warming cappachino, to quickly assess that yet again the train had moved two gates over. I was beginning to see a pattern here. I was glad we had fortuiously purchased open tickets at a slightly higher price allowing us to change departure times without penalty.

While Berlin is easier to get lost in while walking, both Munich and Trier are organized in a nice, neat grid system so we found walking the cities very straight forward.  Berlin was two cities for so long that sometimes connections are still wonky but we managed the local commuter train out to Potsdam and back with relative ease.  We got off one stop too early but quickly regrouped and jumped on the next train that came along after confirming our decision with the platform attendant.  

From Munich to Trier, we once again traveled by train.  While nearly missing the train out of Munich, it departed 10 minutes earlier than we expected, we navigated an Olympic record breaking transfer pace in Mannheim, that required us to race up and down flights of ancient stairs and across slick platforms with our bulky luggage because the first train was slightly late and the transfer time absurd (five minutes). We made it with seconds to spare with our calf muscles burning and RM’s hair on fire.  Of course, we sat in someone else’s reserved seats, which required us to move two stops later after we had nicely organized our travel accoutrements but we eventually settled into a nice journey just a few seats over.  Sigh.

Travel tests our navigation skills and I prefer to do it in pairs.  RM and I were lost, and found, all over Germany and back again but we were always together just arriving a bit later than intended.

Truly Trier

Truly Trier

All of our girls have traveled to Trier, Germany, before us so we had some idea in advance of what to expect especially about the Roman history, the Porte Nigre, the churches, the old amphitheater and the sister city connections between Fort Worth and Trier.  But we didn’t fully comprehend the travel delights of these last few days near our journey end.  We saved the best for last — the beauty of the Mosel Valley, the charm of the city center, and the luck and wonder of seeing the city through the eyes of a three generation Trier family — the Masfelders. 

Porte Nigre into the town square of Trier

We have known Melina for 15 years but never met her parents, Claudia and Friedhelm, until this trip.  Claudia and I talked once by telephone before she let go of Melina for a trip to Texas, sponsored by Kids Who Care, when Melina was just 15 years old.  C1 traveled to Trier, alone, when she was only thirteen or so and she had a grand time.  I think Trier is her favorite travel spot of all.  The Masfelders took her to Paris for the first time during that trip.  Melina and C1 have traveled back and forth several times and so have C2 and C3 with Fort Worth Sister Cities exchanges.  A family friendship forged that we treasure.  We hope that Claudia and Friedhelm will come to the US and make a stop in the fort as one of their travel destinations.  We would love to show them Cowtown.

The first night in Tier we dined at the Masfelder’s favorite local cafe and bar and sampled fried chicken wings, Bavarian fries and salad Trier-style.  The wings were not greasy, a little peppery, and reminded me slightly of some asian-influenced wings I have sampled once before. The fries were chubby, twice-fried and crisp and the salad was light and crunchy with shredded carrots and cabbage mixed with fresh greens.  We met the 72 year old, red-headed women proprietor and learned that her husband was our chef.  The cafe was filled with locals enjoying Bitburger beer 

or the local drink called Viez. This local favorite has the alcohol content of beer but with a soft, sour apple taste to it.  Tier folks serve it in white pots at a cool temperature.  I quite liked it.  Not as much as the perfection of the Reislings sampled later but I understood the pleasure of the cuppa Viez especially at this time and place.

RM and I spent two full days exploring the city by foot.  We sat in the market center in the sun and watched the tourists and the locals intertwine.  A very tall, thin man fast walked by in a superman outfit, sans cape, beside a dapper gentleman in the finery of a coat and tie and red beret. I sipped my kaffee and soaked in the scene.  

The vistas over the Mosel valley were breathtaking and I don’t still understand how the grape tenders are able to hang onto the side of the hill as they work to prune and shape the vines for this year’s harvest.

The second night we visited a local wine producer, friends of the Masfelders, and experienced a behind-the-scenes tour of the wine making process as well as how snaupps and Viez are produced.  Mostly white wines are produced in this valley due to tradition and local regulations. These wines are not exported so RM and I bought a few bottles to bring back to the states as special souvenirs. I want to buy a bottle of Viez today as we do our final shopping.

Blogger, Melina and Jennifer

We will have dinner tonight in the suburb of Pluwig at the Masfelder’s home with Claufia, Friedhelm, Melina, Jennifer, and cat.  Can’t think of a better ending to our adventures in Deutchland.  Truly a Trier experience to treasure a lifetime.

Like family

Safe travels and we will be home soon, too soon!

Everything I ate in Germany was the size of my Head

Everything I ate in Germany was the size of my Head

Everything in Texas is bigger except for the food I ate in Germany.  Everything I chowed on in Deutchland was the size of my head including the liter sized stein’s of beer we quaffed in the Biergartens of Munich. In both Berlin and Munich we learned about pork knuckle which is a Fred Flintstone’s size piece of carnivore served bone-in and snarfed by their mostly male, adolescent German consumers.

At nearly every restaurant, we witnessed softball-size Knodel, which are large dumplings made of potatoes but also of wheat, semolina and even liver; baseball sized dumplings called Klosse.  Last night, while dining at a lovely, upscale restaurant in Munich, I ordered a vegetarian meal of spinich dumplings in tomato sauce.  I had dined on meat three meals in a row including liverwust, sausage and salami so my colon was in need of some veggies. Much to my surprise, the dumplings, four of them the size of tennis balls, arrived in a pool of sauce and were topped with shaved, peppery Parmesan cheese.  Unexpectantly light as air and the marinara sauce was sublime.  RM ordered ox, very tender and beefy, with a rich, brown butter sauce served with fresh green beans and cherry tomatoes.  We shared a dessert of white mousse with sour cherries and strawberries from the nearby market combined with a strong aperitif of snaupps.  Fire in the hole!



Trains are our joy and our menace.  We never seem to get the gate correct, the ticketing or the arrival and departure routine down but we love the old fashioned nature of the mode of transport and their is plenty of leg room and space to sit back and watch the breath-taking scenery go by.  We saw the Danube, the Mosel and the edge of the Black Forest on our trip today to Trier.  We were welcomed by our hosts, the Masfelders, upon arrival in Trier and look forward to a wonderful final few days in Germany celebrating friendship across the continents.

Munich, Maypole and Market

Munich, Maypole and Market

We began our first full day, after a lovely breakfast served by our pensioner host, by shopping in the Viktaulienmarkt where merchants are protected so the city only charges them a small percentage of their gross income and bans most fast-food chains.  Beer is considered liquid food so we embibed.


We walk it off with a six mile hike across the English Gardens.  Such a beautiful day that nudity and wave boarding was rampant.

We explored the gothic architecture, did some obligatory shopping, but mostly just embraced a truly beautiful spring day in Munich with a sighting of a patch of edelweiss (we think).

Oh, Berlin.

Oh, Berlin.

We leave you in the next few hours on a express train to Munich departing from your magnificent train station, Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Hbf, serving  thousands of trains and wanderlust passengers a day.  You are a colorful and gritty city recognized as the spray-paint mecca for graffitists from all over the world.  No wall is left unadorned of bubble lettering in our little section of east Berlin.  RM and I enjoyed the history museums the most gaining new knowledge from the Deutchland perspective of the Prussian reign, the 7 year war, the impact of the Versailles Treaty and of course the WW’s, their impact, and the atrocities of the Holacaust.  Let us not forget the lessons learned from history especially now with the emergence of hate against Muslims, Christians, Jews and other religious sects in our communities. We learned that Turks make up the largest minority sect in Berlin and many are devoted Muslims. On our last night in Berlin, we had dinner at Hasir’s and savored grilled lamb kebabs, hummus and sipped white wine from Turkey. We would recommend a stop in as the waiters are fun and attentive and the food superb.  As a special treat, they brought anise flavored aperitif and dried dates to complete our dinner. A nice touch to finish out our few days in Berlin.

Sights we recommend include all the major ones listed in most tour guides but don’t miss the DDR Museum (former East Germany).  DDR Museum is no Smithsonium but it is fun and informative for all ages.  The museum has dividing walls throughout its space with peek-a-boo, interactive doors and drawers to open that share displays of everyday life in east Berlin before the wall came day.  Some of the items, including artifacts, photographs and clippings, will make you laugh and some will make you cry but all of it will move you in one way or another.  A mark of a good museum in my book.  If you want to go for facts about the Third Reich, visit a relatively new museum called the Topography of Terror near where the last remnant of the wall still stands.

The TV Tower serves as our landmark back to the apartment these last few days.  Built in 1969 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the communist government, East Berliners named it “Tele-Asparagus” and joked that if it fell over, it would most likely strike against the wall, providing the perfect escape route to freedom.


Oh, Berlin.


Berlin First Impressions

Berlin First Impressions

We arrived in Berlin on a Thursday just past noon after a red eye flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Frankfurt to Berlin on reliable Lufthansa. The flights were on time and smooth sailing except for the twin baby boys who bellowed nearly the entire first leg of the plane ride seemingly unconsollable by their caretaker. RM was validated that he had his Bose earphones for sanctuary from the bawling children and I turned my earphone volume setting to the max so to lose myself in the fine assortment of in flight movies as well in the wondrous anticipation of a week of adventure in Deutschland.

Exiting Berlin Tegal terminal, we hailed a taxi – the Berlin taxis are all a rather nondescript pale yellow – ours driven by a crazy cabbie who informed us after brief introductions that he had lived in Fort Worth for a year twenty years prior training foran assignment in Turkey somehow related to the defense industry.  I wish he’d stayed there because he was a frightfully awful driver, incessantly changing lanes, whipping u-turns in the middle of the multi-lanes, honking and yelling out the window at startled pedestrians in the universal language of trash talk. I caught images of the city on the roller coaster ride to our lodging in east Berlin in the colorful and gritty Prezlauer Berg district. First impressions were of a thriving city on the rebound, busy with construction projects with a blend of old with the new.  Strange pink and blue colored water pipes snaked around over the ground and up and over roadways and other impediments.  Later I learn that Berlin is built on a swamp so basic water line supplies are often required to be above ground.

pink water pipes

Finding our apartmenthaus was a bit like a child on a treasure hunt with clues left by the absent proprietor but after a brief wait at the Cafe Lois, bolstered by a cold Jever, we found the flat after a 10 minute walk on a bumpy cobblestone street,  entered the large building entry marked 1B, walked down a long, cold hall to two doors leading to a back courtyard.  Our rental was in the back house, on the second floor which included a living area, bath, kitchen and bedroom.  I loved the large windows immediately that looked out over the courtyard as well as into other high rise apartment windows that surrounded the common inner space.  We are not alone.


We are pleased with our location as we are within walking distance of the best of East Berlin’s sights and sounds. Time for a quick nap to prepare for three full days exploring the highest concentration of notable sights and colorful neighborhoods In Berlin (per Rick Steves) as well as learning about the culture and history of this marshy burg.

Old and new