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The Covered Bridge Capitol of the World

November 3, 2016

When we first moved to Terre Haute, there was one sentence that nearly EVERY person I met said to me. In fact, I had four different people utter this exact statement within a two hour period. That sentence was this:

You HAVE to go to the Covered Bridge Festival!

I soon came to find out that Parke County, which is located about 40 minutes outside Terre Haute, is known as the Covered Bridge Capitol of the World. It is home to 31 covered bridges, all having a unique background story. Everyone is so familiar with the book and movie “The Bridges of Madison County,” which took place in Iowa. Yet before I moved to Indiana, I had no idea about all the historical bridges right here.

The Covered Bridge Festival takes place every year, on the second Friday of October. When it started 60 years ago, it drew 250 attendees. Today, it’s the largest festival in Indiana, and welcomes more than 2 million visitors! It’s headquartered on the courthouse lawn in Rockville, a very small town of 2,600 people. Many other towns in Parke County participate in the bigger celebration, with the two largest ones taking place in nearby Mansfield and Bridgeton.

Sophie and I made our way to Bridgeton the first Sunday of the Covered Bridge Festival. This was the festival I was encouraged to attend since it’s known for its arts and craft vendors. And wow, it did not disappoint! We were told that to cover the entire festival on foot, it would be about five miles of walking. My feet can attest this is true. Sophie and I shopped and ate, and shopped and ate some more. The festival is known for its food vendors, and they were incredible.


We also visited the Bridgeton Covered Bridge and Bridgeton Grist Mill, the oldest continually operating mill in Indiana (probably the Midwest). It’s been open very day for more than 180 years. 


The next day, we opted to see the bridges and learn a bit about the history. We took a chartered bus tour from Rockville to see five covered bridges, and visited two towns. First up was West Union Bridge — the oldest bridge — built in 1876. It’s also the longest bridge at 300 feet and does not allow cars to drive through it.


It was a beautiful, sunny day, which was especially nice since it rained the entire day before. Look at this amazing view from the bridge!


From there we went on to Marshall Bridge and Rush Creek Bridge.



You’ll notice most covered bridges say, “Cross this bridge at a walk.” This comes from horse-drawn wagons crossing the bridges (in Parke County, many Amish still use this form of transportation). Slow walking minimizes the stress and structural damage from the pounding of horses’ hooves.

Here’s a look at the roof of the bridge and inside.


It’s interesting how each bridge has such a different feel to it.


The Jackson Bridge was constructed during the beginning of the Civil War. The builder, Joseph J. Daniels, made a political statement in naming the bridge after Andrew Jackson in honor of Jackson’s statement to John Calhoun: “To the Union, it must be preserved.” When first built, the bridge portal was lettered: “The Federal Union: It must be preserved” (source).


My covered bridge selfie in the Jackson Bridge.


We stopped in Tangier, a township of Parke County, that’s famous for their buried beef.


The meat is – literally – cooked underground. And it was delicious.


I also met a very nice horse.


We then visited a Quaker Church in Bloomingdale, famous for its apple butter.


After the tour ended, Sophie and I stayed in Rockville a bit, visiting antique shops and checking out the vendors. We treated ourselves to ice cream, which was churned on site with this John Deere motor. My apple cider milkshake was delicious.


We had such an amazing few days at the Covered Bridge Festival. I can definitely see why everyone recommended I go. And while the shopping and food in Bridgeton was awesome, I really loved the leisurely visits to the covered bridges and learning about Indiana history. Can’t wait until next year!










Monday Musings ~ October 31

October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween! These cute wooden ghosts were outside The French Hen, a boutique, in Downtown Terre Haute. I need them for my porch.


1. Terre Haute takes its Halloween very seriously with not one, but TWO nights of trick or treating. And in actuality, tonight will be our third night of trick or treating. We spent Friday evening at a trunk or treat at Sophie’s school and then a trick or treat night for kids in downtown. We went to a few homes and passed out candy last night, and plan to go out again tonight. I just love the family-friendly — and Halloween-friendly — spirit in Terre Haute. Am I in the right town, or what?

By the way, I LOVE the trunk or treat concept! Why wasn’t this a thing in San Diego? Or was it and I just had no idea?

2. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and every year I think about whether I should take the challenge. If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a way to write a 50,000-word novel in one month by writing approximately 1,600 words per day. I signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo several years ago and didn’t make it beyond the first day. I may attempt it tomorrow, especially given I have the first and last chapter of my novel written. Maybe this will be a good way to motivate me to write the middle? We’ll see. …

3. Given the choice between more time or more money, which would you pick? That’s the question this New York Times article posed. I’m sure most people’s knee-jerk response is time. Yet one thing I’ve learned about money — and struggles with money over the years — is having it can actually lead to more time. A profound lesson for me was when I understood Suze Orman’s words that having money gives people options. And in this scenario, I think the options lead to time.

4. We’ve all heard that multi-tasking is unproductive. KJ Dell’Antonia, former editor at New York Times Motherlode (now “Well Family”), takes it this up a notch. KJ wrote about how she changed the way she works to only focus on one project per day. She may occasionally split the day into two projects, both at different times.

I often have multiple projects to do each day, and I start every work day with a numbered list of tasks. But I’ve realized having six things on my “to do” list isn’t always realistic. I’m trying to pair it down a bit, and stick to only a few and devote more time to each (like KJ suggests). How do you handle multiple work projects and tasks?

5. Finally, I’m launching my first email newsletter and I’d love it if you sign up to receive it. It will be a monthly email with tips about writing, marketing, links to great resources, and more fun stuff. So if you’re at all interested in hearing more from me, please sign up. I promise I won’t spam you.

What’s going on in your life? What are you thinking about on this last day of October?


Meet Denise Lewis Patrick, the Writer Behind the New American Girl “Melody” Doll

October 25, 2016

Last year I had the privilege of interviewing Valerie Tripp, the author of many of the beloved American Girl doll stories, including MaryEllen. I learned SO MUCH about how the dolls’ backgrounds are formed, as well as the writing process for each girl.

As I’ve said before, I’m a big believer that books and reading helps kids learn about the world and hone their writing skills. Stories are key to unlocking creativity and imagination. One of the reasons I like the American Girl doll concept is because it’s not just about owning a doll. The product encourages reading and the dolls each come with a book (and have multiple books written about each of them).

I was given the opportunity of interviewing Denise Lewis Patrick, the author behind the newest American Girl doll, Melody Ellison. I could not be more thrilled because I LOVE Melody’s story!


Melody is a civil rights, chorus leader, and daughter of Detroit—hits the scene and inspires girls and their families to be a force for positive growth and change. At 9-years-old, she provides a glimpse of life during the 1960s and the civil rights movement that defined the decade. Melody is inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and influenced by her oldest sister, a college student who is taking action to make things fair for all African Americans. As Melody experiences discrimination herself, and as she hears about the atrocities happening throughout the country, she discovers that her voice is her mightiest strength and, when joined with the voices of many, it can bring about monumental changes.

One of the aspects of Melody’s story that I like so much is how it bridges the past and present. Every day, we witness racial tensions and a continued struggle for equality and justice. I appreciate that Melody and her story can help kids learn about these important issues and America’s history, while also teaching how individuals (even young kids) can make a difference in the world.

I cannot tell you how excited I am that Denise took the time to answer questions about what motivated her to write Melody’s story. And for this interview, I asked Sophie to help write the questions for Denise.

Denise Lewis Patric, the author of American Girl Melody’s story

What inspired you to become a writer?

I talk a lot! No, really… Everyone in my family can tell a good story. I grew up around my parents, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and family friends who were always involved in lively conversations. We kids sat around listening and laughing and learning from them. I also love reading, and have since I was a small girl. Reading opened up my world. I think that, and playing with dolls and creating entire stories for them, started me on this path. I heard somewhere once that “words have power.” I believe that.

Tell me about the process of writing Melody’s story. How much of Melody’s story is informed from your own background?

When American Girl asked me onto the project, they had set the time frame (1963-64), the location (Detroit) and the major historical event (the Civil Rights Movement). Even with those decisions made, I still had plenty of work at the start. I began by doing research: reading about the city and what was happening there, refreshing what I already knew about the Civil Rights Movement.

One thing I like to do in researching historical fiction is to see the place I’m writing about and to visit it, if I can. I had a wonderful ride around Detroit with one of our advisory board members, JoAnn Watson, who grew up in the city. That was the best—she sort of recreated the sounds and life of 1960s Detroit for me. I began to get a feel for it. Then I could imagine a little girl growing up there, her family, how she felt about her world. I guess both Detroit and Melody are characters in the books. As I figured them out, I began to shape an outline. Some of the questions I asked myself were: “What’s happening in the country that African American families might be concerned about? What would ‘Civil Rights’ or justice mean to a nine-year-old? What is Melody’s family and community like? How do her family and community help her (and readers) understand what the Civil Rights Movement is all about?”

Of course, there’s a bit of me in everything that I write. Most often, I base characters’ family relationships on those that I had growing up, and on the way I’ve raised and interact with my own children. When I grew up we had a strong sense of community, and I think that is so important to a child. I also try to imagine how I would feel or react in the situations my characters are in. Sometimes that can get pretty emotional.

I love the idea that Melody’s voice – through singing and words – can bring about change in society. How would you encourage girls to use their voice in today’s society?

Wow. To slightly change what I said earlier, words are power. I’d first remind girls that each of us has the power to make things better in some way, large or small. Sometimes your voice is quietly powerful—you can say “Hi” to a new kid at school and make her day brighter. You can learn about an issue and take a stand, then write about it—using the power of the written word. Or sometimes, your voice and your words can be incredibly powerful in a big way—like if you are courageous enough to speak to a teacher, parent or other adult about something that may be hurting you or someone else. And then, like Melody—you can always lift your voice in song! As Melody discovers, music can bring about change as well.

Why did you make Melody a singer?

Detroit is where the famous Motown music business was born, and we wanted to work that into the story. The most natural way to do it was to make Melody’s entire family musical (which I am not, by the way). They all love music, play instruments, sing privately and publicly. It made sense to have one of Melody’s older siblings interested in becoming a Motown “star.” That way Melody gets the inside scoop on the music business, and has a few pretty cool music experiences of her own.

What do you hope Melody will do for girls?

Oh, I hope Melody gives girls today the courage to use their voices—in song, in writing, and in speaking—to stand up for what’s right and what’s fair. I also hope readers will take away a message from Melody’s story to think about themselves in terms of their community and what they can do to help—to change—their community for the better.

What of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and speeches inspired Melody?

Without giving away too much, all I can say is that Dr. King was still perfecting his famous “I Have A Dream” speech when he visited and spoke in Detroit in 1963. His words help Melody understand something, and make an important decision. There! No spoilers.


Denise, thank you SO MUCH for answering my questions and for bringing these girls to life!

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Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. I received a Melody doll and book from American Girl as part of the research for this post. The idea for interviewing Denise Patrick Lewis, the questions asked, and my thoughts about children’s literacy and the American Girl dolls and books are entirely my own.









Religion, Politics and the Great Pumpkin

October 20, 2016

Recently Sophie came home from school and asked me an odd question.

“Mom, is it true Hillary Clinton killed four people?”

I asked her where she heard this statement. I mean, it’s not as if Sophie is a frequent viewer of Fox News or CNN, nor does she spend time perusing the Internet for news.

She said a friend asked her who she is voting for president. Sophie clarified to her friend that she herself can’t vote, but if she could, she supported Hillary Clinton. It was then the friend told Sophie that she’s voting for a murderer.

After hearing this, I decided to give Sophie some sage advice from Linus of the Peanuts fame:

There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.

I echoed Linus’ words and encouraged Sophie not to engage in those discussions, no matter who is talking about which presidential candidate.



I’m not writing this post to scold this little girl, nor am I here to bash Trump. I’m also not here to convince you to vote for Clinton (I’ve already written about my feelings about that here). And really, whether you think Clinton is shady is really none of my business.

I believe different opinions are fine. But hate is not fine. And 8-year-old calling another 8-year-old a person who supports a murderer is not okay.

I wrote this post because I’m sad for our children. In this case, elementary school kids are burdened with these feelings and discussions. I’m sad this little girl felt the need to tell Sophie she’s voting for a killer. I’m sad Sophie has to hear these things in the third grade.

Needless to say, like most of you, I cannot wait for Election Day in less than a month.


A few days later, Sophie told me the little girl brought up the subject of Hillary Clinton again. So I asked what she said to her friend.

Sophie said, “I told her, let’s not get into a conflict. Let’s not talk about this. And [my friend] agreed.”

I’m glad Linus Van Pelt’s advice could help Sophie and her friend resolve their political differences.

Monday Musings ~ October 17

October 17, 2016

Hello, Monday!


1. October in Indiana is beautiful! The leaves are turning gold and red, and the weather is cooler (especially the evenings). Fall has always been my favorite season, although  autumn in San Diego wasn’t much different than summer, spring and winter in San Diego. So now that I can experience a real fall season, I’m in heaven and enjoying every moment of it.

2. In case you missed my post on Friday, I reviewed a great writing book called Author in Progress by the writers at Writer Unboxed, one of my favorite websites. Writer Unboxed always has thought-provoking articles about the process of writing. For example, this article on why books written by women get such audience-limiting covers was fascinating and full of truth.

3. Speaking of book covers, you have to read this interview with a creative director for Penguin Classics. I had no idea how much goes into designing book covers. Fascinating stuff, including his favorite (and least favorite) book covers.

4. Loved this article about a blogger who ate all the pumpkin spice items in the grocery store, and then ranked them all. My pumpkin spice sampling has seriously lacked this season. Mainly because I haven’t been able to get my pumpkin fix since I’m over an hour away from the closest Trader Joe’s. That’s the one thing I miss about San Diego (no Trader Joe’s close by). But I did finish off a box of the pumpkin spice Cheerios and they were quite tasty.

5. Speaking of fall, remember when September meant all the television shows returned and new series premiered? I guess that’s still the case, although now there are so many great programs on cable during the year it doesn’t feel as exciting. We just finished watching “11-22-63″ on Hulu. I’m not a big fan of science fiction or fantasy, but I really liked this miniseries. I also binge-watched the first three seasons of “Rectify” — good, but not my favorite. The big surprise was “This is Us,” a new drama on NBC that I fully expected to hate because I thought it was trying to be the next “Parenthood.” But I ended up really liking it!

6. Finally, 2001 doesn’t seem that long ago … until you read these 17 things we were doing on our computers in 2001. I’d forgotten about Clippy the Paperclip in Microsoft Word, LiveJournal and waiting for videos to buffer. Ahh, so much progress in 15 years!

What’s going on in your life? What are you thinking about this Monday in October?

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