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2018 Recap of Posts

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase through it, I may or may not make a small commission from it, which I will use to buy more books.

Dear Diary,
I confess to feeling like my day job held me back from my passion projects.

I enjoy exploring, researching, chasing stories and writing them, taking pictures ... some experiences I share with my kids, so we also bond over them. Others, if my background research deems the topic is too heavy, I check out alone.

I hope to do more of this in 2019 - improving my photography, turning what I research and write into books and articles for public consumption, and getting acquainted with my adopted hometown.

Let's review what 2018 showed me -

Books I Read: (Affiliate links)
I read 5 books this year, which was 5 more than I did in 2017. Special shout-out to Alexandra at The Only Living Girl In New York, whose reviews* inspired my own reads -

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby*
I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara
Silent Witnesses by Nigel McCrery*
Bellevue by David Oshinsky*
Murder in Mississippi by John Safran

My favorite book of 2018 was I'll Be Gone In The Dark. Since learning of Michelle's tragic death, and how her husband, Patton Oswalt, honored her by getting it published, then TO AN ARREST - I have already re-read it.

I have quite a few titles on my bookshelf to read in 2019, plus I received a few new titles for Christmas, so there will be more reviews to come. (Check out reviews of my 2018 reads here - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Places We Traveled:
Sarasota, FL

(Siesta Beach in Sarasota, FL)

The VJ-Day Kiss Statue in Florida

(The VJ Day Kiss Statue)
Sweden (Part I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII)
Missoula, Montana

We didn't travel as much as in years past because we adopted 4 cats!

City Explorations:
I had the revelation that I've lived in this great state for 7 years, yet I've barely begun to scratch the surface in experiencing what Minnesota has to offer. That's changing, and that's what this blog is documenting.

We took part in the city-wide Super Bowl celebrations.
Abandoned Munitions Factory
Minnesota's Connection to Jesse James - fun to explore with my kids!

(First National Bank in Northfield, as restored to the day Jesse James tried to rob it)
Farmington Middle Creek Historic Cemetery (Part I, II)
Vermillion River
Highland Cemetery

(Highland Cemetery)
Minneapolis Pioneers & Soldiers Memorial Cemetery

(The Pioneers & Soliders Memorial Cemetery)
Main Street Coffee & Wine Bar - in an old bank vault!
Aronson Park Veterans' Pavillion

(Aronson Park Veterans' Pavillion)
James J. Hill House

(The grand foyer alone is only 1,000-square feet smaller than my entire house.)
Bde Maka Ska Lake
Abandoned Archibald Mill

(Archibald Mill)
Lake Marion
Minnehaha Falls

(Minnehaha Falls)
Minnehaha 'Princess' Depot
John H. Stevens House
TCO Performance Center
Pinkie the Elephant (WI)

(Pinkie the Elephant)

Best Purchases:
I'm not a Pinterest Mom, I'm an Amazon Mom. If it doesn't qualify for Prime 2-day shipping, it's probably not going to happen.

Kitchen Products That Help Me Fake It
Collapsible Wagon (affiliate link)
Albums (affiliate link) - I finally organized all of my loose pictures into a collection of sleek, leather albums. I don't like a cluttered grouping of frames on a dusty table; my preferences simply lean this way.
The Best Notebook (affiliate link)
A barrier net is a household accessory if you have children in sports

Here's to a 2019 full of new experiences!

Christmas in Missoula, Montana

Dear Diary,
On Christmas Eve, the kids and I flew out to Missoula, MT to spend the holiday with Nick. He had a 30-hour overnight, and rather than he be alone, I wanted the four of us to be together.

Missoula is a college town, growing steadily, and has an active downtown scene. We stayed at the Double Tree, probably one of the nicest hotels in the city (and in my opinion).

The real draw, is the scenic mountain landscape.

We found this old rail depot.

Accented by what I suspect are bullet holes!

(Especially cool is that it's called The Milwaukee Depot)

Now it's known as an Explorer's Club of sorts, established in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt.

We were able to rent a car.

It was easy to feel small surrounded by the snow-covered mountains.


Nick and the kids CLIMBED THIS on Christmas Day - which I'm sure is a Christmas memory that won't soon be topped!

Mt. Sentinel provided one of the state's most popular hiking trails since forestry students cut its switchbacks in the early 1900s. There is an M on the mountain face, first built in 1909 with whitewashed rocks, and freshman gave it an annual cleaning until a concrete 'M' was built in 1968.

It was snow-covered when we were there, and difficult to spot. The 'M' is 125-feet long and 100-feet wide, and sites 620-feet above the Missoula valley floor.

(The view of Missoula from the top!)

Meanwhile, since I didn't pack footwear conducive to a mountain climb, I stayed at ground level. I explored the surrounding college campus.


This beautiful Victorian home was a family residence for 95 years, and built by miner/cowboy Clarence Prescott, Sr. The University of Montana acquired the home from Clarence Prescott, Jr., who lived in the house until 1993.

Thanks to donations, the home was restored in 1996 to its original splendor.

Today, it's used for special events.

(The stadium - Go Griz!)


(I love this old ticket window.)

The name of this Elks Lodge is a bit ominous, but the detailed architecture was charming. I loved the spooky gargoyles at its roofline.

Thanks to my husband's obsession with the show Gold Rush, I knew immediately what this was and was instantly curious if there's still "gold in them there hills."


I had to include this sign, because I came within a mile of achieving my dream of exploring an old west ghost town.

As we scaled the mountain, I was feeling equal parts nervous and excited - nervous, because the government shutdown meant there wouldn't be staff on site, but excited for the obvious.

Unfortunately, the unplowed switchbacks proved too treacherous for our rental (which was an all-wheel drive Subaru Outback) and we had to turn around. But, even Nick promised this is a "must see" next time he has an overnight in Missoula.

(A beautiful yet random waterfall we found along the Interstate.)

(The sea container completes the aesthetic of this motel - plus I like the 60s signage.)

After exploring, we enjoyed a Christmas dinner downtown.

And of course, on our way home, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise from high above the clouds. Nick piloted our ride home to Minnesota. It was a fitting end to our quick trip, and 2018.

Murder in Mississippi by John Safran

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click on a link, I may make a small commission off of your purchase, which I will use to buy more books.

Dear Diary,
To be a fan of True Crime means you are a consumer of someone else's tragedy.

It's vital that the utmost respect is paid, and the story is well-written.

['Murder in Mississippi' by John Safran]

This book, the Australian version, puts a different spin on the True Crime genre because it emphasizes shock value. A controversial Australian journalist with a reputation for pushing boundaries regarding race, pulls a public prank on a white supremacist in Mississippi. Upon learning of his murder, he befriends his black killer and writes this book.

The author visits "the murder house" where the white supremacist was killed, interviews the detectives, defense attorneys and prosecutors; talks to the families, reads the files, transcripts and reports - it's obvious he covered both sides, did his best to remain unbiased, and did his research. Any time he hypotheses one angle or direction, he's caught off guard by a revelation that presents more questions than it does answers.

In America, it's published under the title, God'll Cut You Down.

It was an interesting account, as it provided a perspective of America's disease of racism from a non-American. It noticed that the Confederacy is still revered, and the resulting oppression of a population is visible in the neighborhoods and businesses. White areas were maintained by the state and cities better than the black areas. White initiatives were better funded, and there were still "segregation schools".

I felt no compassion towards the victim in this story, which is atypical for a True Crime book.

Instead, and while I don't condone the act of murder, I felt an understanding towards the perpetrator. I didn't find the humor John Berendt, who wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, referenced in his review of the book, but I do consider this perspective one everyone should read about.


Dear Diary,
The kittens experienced snow for the first time.

They were apprehensive at first.

But with an "oh f%$^ it!" Savage dove in.

Maddie helped her kitten, Mouse, feel more at ease.

Savage was a little more playful in the fluff than his scaredy-cat siblings. He tasted some ...

... Climbed the retaining wall and dipped his chin in it ...

... While the rest of the herd was like, "what the f^%$ is wrong with you, dude?"

Hissy preferred to hide.

They were all too eager to come back inside.