Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday from my Little House to Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura's simple kitchen

Happy birthday, dear Laura Ingalls Wilder. You are such an inspiration to me and to millions of others who love your life and your writing. Imagine this–Laura did not begin to write until she was in her sixties. I find that both amazing and an impetus to myself and so many others to get out and just DO IT. Write, create, celebrate the beauty in the commonplace, which is what Laura did in her works.

Jeff and I drove waaaay off our normal route to visit Rocky Ridge Farm, the home of Laura and Almanzo, which is located near Mansfield, Missouri. The home's simplicity is stunning. Laura designed the farmhouse and most of it is built from the raw materials found on this beautiful Missouri farmland. It rests there easily, like a cat curled up on a sunny windowsill. I adored the kitchen with its vintage stove, the short countertops for tiny, five foot Laura, and the wavery view out the window and across the property. Just think–Laura looked out at this same view.

When researching Laura and Almanzo's life, I found that Laura had designed the sunny, little kitchen, and she and Almanzo, between bouts of working the farm, built it for under just under $50.00. Amazing.

Laura was quite a good cook. She had to be because her cooking helped earn their livelihood. She and Almanzo welcomed paying guests to their ten room home. The guests, who were summer boarders trying to escape the heat of the cities, enjoyed Laura's plain and wholesome offerings. Imagine being fed by Laura and sharing a table with both of them.

"There's chicken and dumplings for dinner;
With salads and vegetables fine
And fruits just fresh from the orchard
Oh who wouldn't love to dine!"

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Jeff and I wandered Laura and Almanzo's property, went on the small tour of the little house, and visited the museum dedicated to her and her works. We've stopped at some of their other homesites, one is Pepin, Wisconsin, another along the shore of Plum Creek in Minnesota (watch the videos at this link), but this was our favorite. You really can feel the strength and beliefs of this remarkable couple.

That is me on the left in the red jacket. I am absorbing every sight, sound, view

Tonight I am going to bake Laura's famous (and one of her favorite recipes) gingerbread, stick a candle in the center of it, and sing a hearty happy birthday song. 

Laura's Gingerbread

a cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup molasses
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup boiling water (measured in a 2 cup or larger measuring cup because you'll be adding baking soda)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and ground cloves (Laura used a teaspoon each, but it is overpowering)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, well beaten

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9X9 baking pan (I use a square iron skillet)
Blend the sugar and the shortening and slowly add the molasses
Add the baking soda to the cup of boiling water and mix well
Combine the flour and the spices and sift. Combine the sugar-molasses mix with the flour and the baking soda/water.
Add the well-beaten eggs. Mix ingredients well and pour into greased skillet.
Bake for about 45 minutes.

I make homemade whipping cream, but use your imagination. I think Laura would approve.

Happy day to you all!


P.S. Here is some of my recent work for the bird book, which is deliciously close to its finish.

Birds on a wire to teach kids comparative sizes

Side portrait of a Barred Owl so kids can see the powerful, flesh-tearing beak

So this is not my normal blog posting, but I really wanted to share this with you.


Robin Larkspur said...

Normal blog post or not, this was great. Thanks for the photos of Laura's home, how wonderful. What a dear person she was, and so beloved amongst us all. Your birds are bee-u-ti-ful, love 'em!! Enjoy that scrumptious gingerbread!

Anonymous said...

what abeautiful adventure! What a wonderful thing to show the birds in thier sizes beside each other so one knows how big they are, I loveowls and have painted many, I have a an owl painting on my blog side bar that also shows that wonderful masterful beak!

Unknown said...

I would love to go to her house in Mansfield sometime! (and it's not even THAT far for us, comparatively speaking, since we are in southwest TN). I read all of the Little House books to my 4 girls over the years, and we have the Little House Cookbook, which has many wonderful recipes (and related book excerpts). Thanks for taking us along with you. Happy Birthday, Laura!

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

The LIW house in MO is adorable. I'm a bit tall for some of the spaces. It's like a doll house almost. I've been to every site except the one in WI and the one in MN.

Wonderful little birds on the wire.

Lorrie said...

I have always wanted to visit Laura and Almanzo's home in Arkansas. I have read and reread her books and anything I can find about her.

Thank you for sharing this outing with us.

Vee said...

It's a delightful post. I can see that Laura influenced you having just read two of your lovely and lyrical books. What a dear thought that you are baking a birthday cake to celebrate Mrs. Wilder. I'm sure that she would approve.

Wonderful birds on a adults some perspective as well. Off to follow a link or two and be taken in by the bliss that is Plum Creek or anywhere in the good old days.

Lili said...

That is so cool that you made the gingerbread in honor of Mrs. Wilder's birthday, it sounds perfect for this time of year too, yum! So glad you got to tour the homestead and look out her very kitchen window, I can imagine how thrilled you were to be there Sharon, having gone with you on another author's home tour last summer. Missing you and glad I finally am getting caught up. Love love the birdie illustrations, gorgeous stuff! xoxo ~Lili

Annelies said...

I felt equally in awe when I got to visit Louisa May Alcotts home recently. I could sense her there, and to gaze out of the window where she could once gaze....well, I still have goosebumps. What a joy that these homes of people we admire are still there to enrich OUR lives. Your post was a blessing to my day. XXX

Meadowsweet Cottage said...

Thanks for the peek into her kitchen. I'd feel right at home there with those low counters and sunshine yellow paint!

I've visited before, but this time I'm subscribing. Why didn't I before when we share a love of art and SLO?! And Moonstone Beach!

Thanks for dropping by my little cottage :)

Kay G. said...

Dear Sharon,
I cannot tell you how much I envy you seeing the home of Laura & Alonzo Wilder. I would LOVE to see it! I also cannot WAIt to see your bird book.

If you look at my blog for Jan. 20, I have a photo of a barred owl on there!

The Painted Garden said...

Hi Sharon,
Thank you for the lovely post about Laura and for sharing your photographs. Such an inspiration to so many of us AND a beautiful example of "you are never too old to follow your dreams". The gingerbread sounds yummy - one of my favorite treats.
I am getting caught up on your blog and hope that your husband is recovering nicely - I put him on my prayer list.
Your art is so delightful and charming - your birds and scarecrows are enchanting. So glad that your scarecrows are feeding our feahered friends!

Bonnie K said...

My grandmother used to teach cursive to her 4th grade class by having them copy Laura's books. She would write a paragraph on the board and they had to practice their penmanship. They would get an award for every chapter they copied. If you are ever traveling through South Dakota on I 90 I don't think DeSmet is too far of the path. That is where Laura also lived. Amazing how one person can bring forth so many different thoughts and memories from people all over the world. The impact of the written word:)

Linda Hoye said...

Thank you for taking us to Laura's house with you, Sharon. She, and you, are inspirations to me.

Unknown said...

Sharon, my mom, Linda Hoye, sent me over, as I/we too LOVE Laura Ingalls! Thank you so much for this wonderful post, and sharing Laura's house, kitchen and recipe as well!! What a beautiful tribute to an amazing women! Happy Birthday Laura!

jerilanders said...

I love that she didn't start writing till age 60! That should be an inspiration to so many. How I loved all my Laura Ingalls books as I was growing up, and still do. Charles Dickens 200th anniversary was also this week.
I think the little birdies look lovely and I see you use those micro pens too... I love those things!

Pondside said...

What a treat it was to have a peek into that house. The kitchen would suit me perfectly!
This past summer I started my young nieces on The Little House books.

Mozart's Girl said...

Dearest Sharon...loved this post, as I love all of yours...informative, sweet, comforting, a LIttle House in themselves. I've always adored Laura & her writing. Felt just as you did when I visited Hilltop, Beatrix Potter's home last May - & I know you loved it there too! I'm flying 12,000 miles to the heat of Australia tonight to be with my sister for a while - leaving Paul & Alice here, so bittersweet. Sending much love to you both xx Rachel

Farm Girl said...

Thank you for sharing. I have loved Laura since I came across her in our school library at 10 years old. I remember getting my library books on Friday and spending the weekend curled up reading about her life. I love her recipe too. Oh I can't wait to get a copy of your bird book when it comes out.
I am sure I will curl up with your new book like I have all of the others, to dream of gardens and spring.
Thank you for sharing.

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I love Laura, too! Grew up reading her books over & over again. I'd love to visit that particular homestead someday. Also, i really admire your birds on a wire!

Kristina said...

Laura's books helped me get through a lonely childhood. They mean so much to me and I so want to visit the sites of her homes. We leave about 4 hours from her DeSmet home so hopfully I will get to make that journey someday! I loved your post about your visit! Happy Birthday, Laura!

Anonymous said...

Sharon I'm so glad to read your post today about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I think one day I'm going to visit her homes. Thanks for the photos of her home and I'm going to check out the links. Laura was quite an inpiration to so many.
Your drawings are lovely and I'm looking forward to your book.
Martha Ellen

Cristy said...

I love this post. I loved L. I. Wilder books as a child and would love to visit one or more of her homesteads.

The bird image on the wire is just amazing!! I can't wait until your new book is out.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

than you for sharing
love the bird images
will have to try the
gingerbread recipe
take care...

camp and cottage living said...

Thank you for sharing Laura's home. Her books have been read and enjoyed repeatedly in our home through the years.
My DH & I went out of our way to visit Laura's Wisconsin home, only to find it closed for the season.
So disappointing. But I'm still young yet, so there's still time.
Your artwork is super for your latest book. I look forward to when it is in print!
Take care-Kimberly

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Uh oh Kimberly, how FRAUSTRATING. That is exactly what happened to us when we drove out of our way to visit Willa Cather's home. CLOSED for the week. Yikes.


Sonia said...

What a gorgeous place-I love farmhouses. Your bird drawings are wonderful...can't wait to see your finished book. We just returned from Avila Beach/SLO and loved the entire area...I'm sure you must get lots of inspiration there! Such a nature rich place to live. Loved your post and I would love to visit her farmhouse someday!
Miss Bloomers

Kim said...

Sharon, you were in my neck of the woods!

We went up to see Rocky Creek Farm a couple of years ago-- the weekend of the Baker Creek Seeds spring planting festival. The combination was a heady one for me... if you've never seen that festival, I highly recommend it! It's astonishing to see all manner of gardenfolk, thousands upon thousands, gather in one place in the middle of nowhere to celebrate the beginning of the gardening season. I adored it and hope to return this year.

(Laura's home was magic for me as well-- so tiny and cozy! I loved the story about Rose building the fancy new house, and them moving themselves back into their old farmhouse as soon as she left town. You can feel the happiness in that old house, I swear.

Have you read the "Little House in the Ozarks" book? I found her newspaper columns in that book especially fascinating.

nana pam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pam G. [nana} said...

thank you for the glimpses of the bird book which my granddaugther Maddie and I are so eagerly awaiting! She still loves birds and is now trying to distinguish their calls.
Laura I. Wilder is one of my favorites too. I am thrilled to see pics of her homestead (I want one of those stoves)- it is on my bucket list. I will be trying out her gingerbread soon-yum!
I read all her books as a child and used to play dress up pioneer by the hour. My elder daughter loved all her books too. I will look for the book you mentioned.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi dear Nana Pam,

I don't know why the posting says I removed your comment above, because I DIDN'T!!! What's up with this?

Anyhow, I love it that Maddie is learning the calls.

I love that stove too. Wonderful. Thanks for stopping by.



Joan S. Bolton said...

Thanks for sharing your visit and the wonderful image of Laura's kitchen.
I loved the Little House books when I was growing up. And my mother read Farmer Boy to her 5th graders just about every one of the 20 years that she taught school. Even the boys back then loved listening. But I never knew that Laura was only 5 feet tall. What a great tidbit of information!

kj said...

not your customary post, honey? now what would that be, because every time i come here i love every post you do :^)

i keep staring at your barred owl. i love all those circles and swirls, sharon. you use little brushes, don't you? the detail and compressed size of what you do makes it all the more charming.

i am channeling march. it's coming fast so i'm not sure. but i'm channeling.

love love

Unknown said...

Hello dear Sharon and Jeff! so nice to catch up with both of you and see that you are out and about taking in more inspiration, writing, creating, drawing, cooking and sharing! Thank you! The Sea is calling! It won't be long! Lots of love,
Boz and Deb

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon-- I loved hearing this story- loved seeing the photos of the house- how wonderful that you were able to visit and walk all around- I'd so love that! Thanks so much for the special recipe-- gingerbread is one of my favorites--

Great minds think alike-- I've got a Laura Ingalls Wilder quote on my "Sugar Snow" post on my blog--

Hope all is going well with your "patient!"


Vicki Boster said...

Oh my- I forget your beautiful bird illustrations-/ they are so beautiful-- I can hardly wait to see the book when it is finished. I'm in love with the owl--

rebecca sweet said...

I've always adored Laura Ingalls Wilder and have such fond memories of receiving her books for my birthday presents, savoring each and every one. Thank you for this beautiful post as I would love, love, love to see this home in person! When my own daughter was young, I 'heartily encouraged' her to write her 'women who changed America' report on Laura. Even though my Emily was only in the 4th grade, we brought home tons of books on Laura's life and had such fun doing the research. Well, to be honest I probably had the most fun. ;)

AnaGF said...

I love your bird drawings!(and interesting to find the exact same pencil and pen I use in mine!)

La Petite Gallery said...

Thanks for sharing. That was a wonderful tour. The Ginger bread sounds great on a cold day in Maine. You are a wonderful artist too.


Christie Jones Ray said...

Dearest Sharon, I am a new follower to your blog, but I have been hearing your name about, for a little while now. The garden shop in town is owned by a woman who has become a great resource and a great friend, for all my gardening questions and curiosities. She saves seeds for me...the latest being moon flowers..and at my last visit, she asked if I knew of you. Then, I see your name and books mentioned on Susan branch's blog, so I looked up some of your work. Three of your books came today...I had them overnighted;) Now I am chomping at the bit for Spring!! Our grandson, who turns 5 this coming week, is my little helper in the garden...he even has his own little wheelbarrow:) I love your sweet more is on it's way... And I just had to let you know I love the photos of Laura's home! I was called Laura Ingalls in jr. High because of my long hair, in braids of course, and my calico smocked dresses. I loved all her books and then the tv show. So,I will be a frequent guest, now, dear, new friend. My brother must meet you as well...he started the edible classroom at his daughters school in FL and they won a statewide contest last year, sending him to CA to meet and train with the guru herself! We were so proud...he'll love that I have your books and am now motivated to grow vegetables, at last:)

Christie Jones Ray said...

...and, oh my goodness, the gingerbread is delicious! I made it yesterday for my husband's Valentine treat. We sat in front of the fire and enjoyed it warm out of my grandma's iron skillet, with butter melting on top. Thank you for sharing such a heartwarming recipe.

Lydia said...

Get Well Jeff! Can't wait for the bird book.

cheris said...

Hi from Austin!
Violet, Graham and I just finished reading Little House for the first time, so we were thrilled that you posted this recipe. We made it today! Big secret: we threw all the ingredients into the bread maker and it was AWESOME.

Rachael said...

We live in Wichita Ks. and we had a business trip to Mo. and found Laura Inglas Wilder home. It was a very magical place. I teared up and could not speak when we were in the living room with her little library off of it. All that I could think of was that she sat in that chair (with the pillows Almanzo made for her) and read and wrote. I would have love to see what titles were on her bookshelves. I would love to go back and take even more time just looking and walking around.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I am another Laura Ingalls Wilder fan! I was so excited to intorduce her little house" books to my daughter as she was growing up.

I enjoyed seeing the photos of Laura's Missouri home on your post, Sharon. I am going to visit the links you provided to see her other homes, too. Thank you!

Your bird book looks delightful!

Michelle said...

Your birds are just beautiful!

Robin said...

I am so glad I read your post. I too am a Laura Ingalls Wilder Fan. Last summer, even though it was 1 1/2 hours off the beaten path, I convinced my husband to drive to the Little House in the Big Woods. I loved their quaint museum and the replica cabin. Just thinking, they were really here a long time ago. I understand you wanting to absorb it all. Sometime we will make our way to Mansfield to see Rocky Ridge Farm also. Thank you!

W-S Wanderings said...

I have chills just THINKING of being at Laura Ingalls Wilder's home. Her writing shaped so much of my childhood imagination, and even now as I survey our fields from our old log home, I find myself daydreaming about Laura's experiences. She brought a whole bygone era to life. Powerful. And you got to go to her home!!!!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Believe me, I was totally aware of the fact that THERE I STOOD in her home, her kitchen, her garden, WOWOWOW.

Thanks for stopping by!


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