Red Dirt Girl Goes To South Dakota, Part 2

Red Dirt Girl Goes To South Dakota, Part 2

After a night’s sleep just outside the Badlands National Park, in Murdo, South Dakota, we woke to sleet tinkling our door. We ate one of those uninspired, free motel breakfasts, filled our Yeti cups with hot coffee and hopped back on I-90 for the Badlands. The sleet turned to snow as we crossed over to Mountain Time Zone and we gained an extra hour to our day. It was 8:30 a.m. when we arrived at the unmanned entrance to the park, so we proceeded to the route without paying the normal $30 private vehicle fee.

By now, the snow blew hard, almost a white out at times, but the white stuff only accumulated in a thin layer on the rough, majestic terrain. We were the only car in the park as we slowly toured along the paved road that criss-crossed the rugged buttes, stopping frequently at the many overlooks. Big horn sheep teetered on narrow, sandstone edges in the snow storm camouflaged against the rock and grass.

The Badlands during a snow storm

We circled the park a couple of times awed by the wonder of our solitude like two astronauts exploring the moon surface for the first time.

So bad it was good.

A very windy, severe environment that day, but we braved the conditions to scamper like two chipmunks around the eroded pinnacles and spires before scurrying back inside to our heated, comforting car seats.

Windy and freezing April day in the Badlands

After two hours, we exited, just as the storm cleared momentarily, on the other side of the park, stopping to wave good-bye to the herds of sheep as they grazed contently in the midst of the passing storm.

See the Bighorns?

There were no services the day we visited the park as the visitors center was closed so we headed into Wall, billed as the geographic center of nowhere. Thankfully, the town exists for tourists like us with all the necessities. It was a bit too touristy for RM and I, so after a restroom break, refills on cheap 5 cent coffee (yes, really) and a fresh baked maple cake donut, we drove on, through more snow, to Rapid City, arriving around 1 p.m.

Convinced by the relentless number of billboards and sighting of old fire trucks along our route, we not surprisingly opted for lunch in downtown Rapid City at the Firehouse Brewing Company. We shared a large plate of porky nachos with a glass of fine local, craft beer while we waited for our Air BnB check-in time. Like so many restaurants, they were gearing up for full-service and advertised a starting hourly rate of $20. RM and I chuckled that when we first met, waiting tables, that we made less than minimum wage, as tips were said to cover the difference.

After the yummy pub grub, we drove just a few short blocks to Aaron’s Place, Flat 6,, located one block off the quaint main drag in downtown Rapid City. His rental is one we recommend for its central location but also for its cool, creative vibe and amenities. During our three-night-stay, we wanted for nothing, cooking most of our meals in-house, since there were still so many restrictions due to Covid.

We placed a Wal-mart pick-up order before we left for the trip and it was ready for us when we pulled up, during yet another band of snow storms, late that afternoon. We just popped the trunk lid and the young Wal-mart employee, bundled in her parka, loaded our order for us. We started preordering our groceries for our road trips as it saves, in the end, both time and trouble. We settled in for the night, cozy in our apartment, hoping the bad weather would soon pass, as we looked forward to visiting Mt. Rushmore the next day.

Five Things I Love

Five Things I Love

I love thrift shopping for items like vases, picture frames, fabric, baskets, architectural pieces, pots, knickknacks, and dishes at vintage stores. Some of my favorite places in Fort Worth are Junker Val’s, Ties to the Past, Berry Good Buys, The Mercantile, Old Home Supply, Resale Shop and the Cross-eyed Moose. Please share if you know of great vintage and thrift stores in the metroplex to add to my list.

Latest finds.

Milk Street is the brainchild of Christopher Kimball and what I love about the magazine is everything but especially the diversity of the recipes involving so many cuisines and cultures. I also love the short videos and live cooking sessions. A membership to Milk Street is just the perfect gift for the foodie in your life.

Tractor Supply Company is a secret love that I am proud to share for meeting my gardening needs including stock tanks for raised beds, rain gauges, carts, organic fertilizer and planters. It’s fun just to browse the store for sales and one of a kind items. I bought blackberry bushes there three years ago and am expecting a bountiful harvest this year.

Blackberry flower

Fourth on my list is rainy days in Texas. We have them so infrequently that when we get an all day downpour, I want to go out and play in the gutter water. Did you play in dirty gutter water as a kid? It was a right of passage for small town kids in Kansas back in the day.

Lastly, the fixer upper show, Home Town, with Erin and Ben, is a new favorite as I watch them as they remodel turn-of-the-century homes in their home town of Laurel, Mississippi. I enjoy seeing their design ideas as well as watching them work together as a couple. Don’t you like a little dinge? I do.

Red Dirt Girl Goes to South Dakota, Part 1

Red Dirt Girl Goes to South Dakota, Part 1

RM and I hopped into our reliable Camry and headed north on I-35, final destination Rapid City, South Dakota, and the Black Hills. The drive through Oklahoma and Kansas is not new to us so we packed a lunch to eat at our favorite roadside rest stop and then kept on driving across miles of fertile farmland until we reached Minden, Nebraska. A long leg of 620 miles.

We had reservations at the Pioneer Village Hotel with plans to tour, the next day, the associated museum billed as “the best collection of Americana anywhere.” Boy, was this a mistake. The hotel is in such disrepair that we were the only fools crazy enough to spend the night. Ever watch the movie, Identity? This place is spookier but with RM by my side, the door double-bolted, we survived the night soothed by greasy take-out pizza, the only option on a Sunday night, and lukewarm bourbon sipped out of a flimsy plastic cup.

View from our hotel window.

The next morning, head full of terror dreams, we checked out and searched for a cup of coffee. All the small town cafes were closed, we guessed due to pandemic restrictions, so we settled on Casey’s gas station coffee on the go. Barely drinkable but the sludge provided the jolt we needed to settle our nerves.

It was a chilly morning with temperatures hovering around freezing. A few flecks of snow danced across our crusty windshield, as an unseasonable spring cold front slid into the Midwest, just as we pulled into the museum parking lot.

We paid for our entrance to the Pioneer Village Museum, signed the registry as the first visitors of the day, noting the short list of other guests from the week before. Popular place. After a quick reconnaissance, RM aptly described the place as “a rat hoard.” It is actually more like a neglected time capsule, once compulsively collected by a noted plastics industrialist, at its prime in the 1960’s. We trolled through poorly lit aisles and in rotted out-buildings with no evidence of heat, laced with spider webs, layers of dust, piles of bird droppings and crumbling displays of randomness. Once a beloved destination for many families, Pioneer Village is now so dilapidated that the only rational course is to find new homes for the few treasures and then, please, god, tear the place down.

We raced through the buildings before exiting the chaos. Back on the road before elevenses, we headed north again with a reservation that night at a Best Western in Murdo, South Dakota, population 500. There are no towns of any size on our route so we just picked one that got us as near to the Badlands as we could get that day. An easy, mostly two-lane drive of about 300 miles, we chugged along through rolling mesas, rugged buttes covered with light snow, pink-tinged grasslands, and a surprising number of rivers with vistas lined with long, coal-carrying trains until we reached I-90 and the exit for Murdo just before sunset.

Pioneer Village: sample of typed exhibit descripters

After a better night sleep, we will tour the Badlands National Park, before driving the final leg into Rapid City, our stopping point, to then tour, over the next three days, the iconic sights of the Black Hills.

View into the Badlands in a spring snow storm
Original art.

Original art.

Over forty years together, the appreciation of artistic expression is something both RM and I agree about. As a wedding gift, this painting below of the Kansas prairie, first graced our meager garage apartment in Burbank, California. The piece followed us across the country before settling in with us for a long stay in Texas. Back then, we thought our immediate need as newlyweds was cold cash, our family wisely passed on the priority of the aesthetic over the practical with this original piece of art.

As a young man, RM loved art class and woodworking. This is not uncommon for those drawn to design. Below, he combines both forms of expression in one of his early school-day woodcuts. He is proof one can be analytical and artistic if nurtured from a young age.

Along our married journey, we bought original art and prints from local artists by supporting art shows, most often offerings at the Fort Worth Community Art Center. This non-profit does a yeomen’s job of featuring amateur and emerging professional artists. Below is one piece we both loved painted by a local Fort Worth artist. The works are affordable and approachable so don’t miss their First Fridays.

RM descends from a long-line of aspiring artists. Here is one by his grandfather, James Othneil Marshall, painted in Grants, New Mexico, circa the 1970’s.

Our daughter, C1, is called to the easel as well. Our family home showcases many of her pieces but below is a recent still life of lemons to compare to her great, grandfather’s work above.

Below is another original, of our home on Ashland, gifted to us recently, but drawn by another of the great grandchildren, his namesake, James.

I seem drawn to the female form. Below is one I purchased in Dallas by a female Chilean artist but compare it to the background of the first painting of the Kansas landscape. You see the similarity, no doubt, and its appeal.

I like to pretend that I am her, dreaming of where my bicycle and suitcase will take me next. Happy New Year and please, support the arts if you can or even when it doesn’t seem the most practical of choices. It will pay you back in dividends.

My favorite kid lit

My favorite kid lit

I am reminiscing my favorite books from childhood as I hold our little grandson, Max. He is only a few weeks old but I am already planning a little library for him to get lost in when he begins to read. I already own the complete Little House on the Prairie Series.

Some others I remember fondly are:

Homer Price – there is a donut making machine in it. I was a foodie early on.

Any book by Dr. Seuss but Green Eggs and Ham rocks. Food again, I know.

The Boxcar Series. I like series books because if I love the characters, I don’t want to leave them at the end of the story.

Encyclopedia Brown Boy Detective. These books happen to be on RM’s list too.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Winnie the Pooh of course!

My children love the culturally diverse and stellar-illustrated book, People. And all the Roald Dahl books with Matilda leading the pack.

Harriet the Spy! I was Harriet.

My dad loved The Little Engine That Could and Wind in the Willows so of course, I loved them too. He would use a different voice for all the little animals with my favorite character, Toad, as dad had a booming Ribbit. I know he was teaching resiliency with The Little Engine. “I think I can, I knew I could…”

Of course, my beloved books are limited by the period I grew up in so my job now is to research and expand my list. So, please share with me your favorites published in the last twenty years.

Since it’s nearly Christmas, do you have a favorite holiday book?

Stay safe and reading can take you to so many places we can’t go to right now.

Five Things I Love

Five Things I Love

Willing Beauty products specifically the tinted primers like this one. The primer is all you need for make-up during Covid times and it protects your skin when outside gardening and during long walks. I am not big on make-up in general but this product is one I can get behind. Thanks C3 for gifting me my first sample.

Goes on smooth, clean and evens out my tone without the heavy feel of traditional foundation

Nordic Ware pans for the best results for cookies, breads and baking goods. The pans provide for an even bake, are durable, clean easily and will not rust. And they are made in America since 1946.

Best pan for cookies in the USA.

Vending Nut Company for, you guessed it, nuts, but also pecan oil and Texas trash. This company is locally owned, in our neighborhood, and the perfect place to purchase holiday gifts. Nuts are good for us and are naturally dairy and gluten-free. Go check them out at:

Recently, we got wrapped up in the Fargo television series on Hulu especially the season starring Chris Rock with his dramatic acting featuring the iconic Kansas City African-American crime family. Chris truly rocks as Loy Cannon.

If you like the vibe of the Cohen film, Fargo, you’ll love the homage the TV version gives to the original movie released back in 1996. If you haven’t seen the original version, make yourself a bowl of popcorn, and strap yourself in for a wild ride. Note: put the popcorn to the side when they bring out the wood chipper.

Everything Halloween. We just love the traditions set in our families from trick or treating to decorating to making popcorn balls. Here is my mother’s recipe in my pre-teen handwriting.

Cook until it strings?
Doing it Wrong

Doing it Wrong

During COVID isolation with my immediate family, I gained new insight regarding tasks that I do wrong. In no particular order, I am doing these things wrong:

1. Loading the dishwasher. No matter how I load it, someone comes behind me and rearranges the dishes before running it.

2. Buying the preferred brand of napkins. It’s Bounty, don’t even try to bring home a different brand.

3. Purchasing items from a particular store. We must buy paper towels at Wal-mart but milk at Aldi’s. Something to do with what I am told is a price point. No factoring for gas, exposure to COVID or convenience.

4. Where and in what order to place the trash, recycling and yard cart on the curb. There is a system and don’t mess with it. I just opted to not participate.

5. I stink at Jeopardy unless it is a food category and then all heads swivel to me for the answer. And I better damn get it or I am persona non grata for the rest of the evening’s riveting entertainment.

6. Anything and everything to do with technology including how I talk to Alexa. She never listens to me either.

7. The driving route I opt to use while running the occasional errand. In my world there are many fun and interesting ways to get from point A to point B. In my family’s world, there is only one way and it is just easier to follow their preference than to discuss the relative merits to freeway versus side streets with them or I should clarify, him.

Are you too a loser in your COVID bubble? If so, please share what you are doing wrong.

Baby Max or bat boy, as we lovingly call him, doesn’t know yet that Grandma is doing it wrong.

Red Dirt Girl Autumn Bucket List

Red Dirt Girl Autumn Bucket List

Update the fireplace with new tile and renovate mantel with craftsman features.

Watch The Birds.

Make baked carmel corn.

Create a fire breathing paper mache dragon for Halloween. Scare myself.

Go on a night hike in the neighborhood.

Watch football games with RM and C1.

Make s’mores on the backyard fire pit.

Read the original Dune book.

Appliqué a felt advent calendar.

Hold our grandson.

Slurp yummy soup with a side of sourdough.

Warm my toes by the fireplace.

Plant a winter garden in the allotment.

Playroom ready for newest member of our family. Coming soon.

How beautifully leaves grow old.

Five Things I Love

Five Things I Love

During Covid confinement, I started paying more attention to the day-to-day cleanliness of our home especially tools and tips to keep my family bubble healthy and shielded from germs.

First tool on my list is the humble kitchen sponge. If in the market for an improved model, try one top-rated by America’s Test Kitchen named the scrunge sponge by O-Cedar. They are rugged, easy to clean, and don’t fall apart under rigorous use. A package of six is less than 10 bucks.

Since I spend so much more time in my casa now, I noticed the grime on our windows especially under the bright Texas sun. I tried washing them with Windex and paper towels but there remained a streaky residue. With some research, I found that using E-cloth on my windows worked like a charm. One cloth is for soaking in water (no cleaner needed) to use to wipe the window panes down and you just rinse in water and use again as needed. The other cloth is for removing the water and for shining up the panes. The cloths are color-coded so you can keep them straight. So easy to clean the rags, let them air dry and sustainable.

A room with a view

Since we are cooking a lot more at home, it’s important to expand your menu offerings a bit to keep morale up. I love H Mart. H Mart is a grocery chain that specializes in Asian food. The one nearest me is located in Carrollton, Texas, but so worth the 40 minute drive. Inside the store are aisles of rice, noodles and colorful ramen packages. There is a whole section devoted to kimchi and so many fresh fish options. I love the frozen dumpling skins they sell along with exotic options for fresh herbs and vegetables. The place is super clean too.

During the pandemic, I am listening to a lot more music to tune out so much fake news and the hate speak. I love The Chicks’ new album, I catch myself singing along to Lake Street Dive tunes but for something soulful check out Devon Gilfillian and his song “A Good Life”. KXT posted a live session if you want to see and hear him perform.

I am insanely in love with oilcloth in all the many colorful, waterproof patterns. Recently, I sewed pillows for all of our families outdoor spaces and the oilcloth holds up so well to our tough climate. My cheap sewing machine stitched through the thicker material like a champ. I ordered mine by the yard via the internet and it costs between $8 and $9 a yard. The oilcloth is so versatile for outdoor living to cover a picnic table or cut into placemats. It helps brighten our little world.

Oilcloth tablescape
Not my Mother’s Hummus

Not my Mother’s Hummus

My mom was an accomplished cook for her time. Pre-internet meant she subscribed to food magazines like Food and Wine and cut out newspaper recipes from the local paper to try. She was especially interested in dishes from different cultures compared to our tried and true Kansas cuisine.

She routinely mixed up chutneys, cooked her own yoghurt, and cut dried egg noodles. She baked French bread every Saturday and churned homemade ice cream with cream from a local dairy farmer.

And she made hummus using chickpeas from a can. It was delicious and this is how I always made hummus too until I stumbled on a cooking show by Molly Yeh. The Girl from the Farm (her cooking show persona) convinced me to try making hummus using dried garbanzo beans. She told me it would be worth the extra time and since we have it, why not, right? She was SOOOOO right.

I ordered these
beans off the internet.

Molly’s recipe is linked her for the Best hummus, you will ever eat. You have to soak the dried beans in cold water for 24 hours and then cook them for 2 hours on the stove but these steps make all the difference in the outcome. Another trick is to mix the beans with the other ingredients in a food processor on high speed for a LONG time. I mean real long. Like 7 minutes of constant mixing. The result is a super creamy consistency.

This hummus is best served warm but you can refrigerate the leftovers and it is still mighty tasty.

Garnish with a few leftover chickpeas, olive oil and paprika.

Mom would be proud.