Saturday, September 19, 2015

LHOP Adventure Day 8 - Heading Home

I had packed most of my belongings before going to bed, so when we woke on the final day together, I just had to wash up and get dressed. We packed all our luggage into the car and headed out to breakfast at Walker's. To our great surprise, our honorary diva, Dorothy, arrived while we were there, so we got a chance to say our final goodbyes to her before driving to the airport in Madison.

It was tough for me to say goodbye to Divas Beth and Lorrie, but I was also eager to get home and see my family. We had chatted via FaceTime every night, but it's not the same as talking face-to-face.

Divas Marilyn and Martha and I made it into the airport and decided we would hang out at each other's gates until each of us left. Marilyn flew out first and then Martha a while later. Then it was just little ole me in the Madison airport waiting to head home. Once I arrived at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, I still had to wait for the valet to pick me up and get my car before I could drive home. By the time I pulled into my garage at 8:35 p.m., I was beat, but the reception I received at home was exhilarating.

Reflecting upon last year's Little House on the Prairie adventure, I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it was. I had always dreamed of visiting these places, but it seemed impossible. The Little House on the Prairie cast reunion gave me the incentive to take the kind of road trip I never imagined I would have the chance to embark upon. My girls don't share my love of Little House, and I had never taken a vacation without them.

So, what did I come away with from my LHOP Adventure?

First of all, I have the greatest friends in the world. They had all met each other before, but this was the first time I had been able to join them. From the moment I first landed in Wisconsin until the moment I left, they made me feel like the most important person on the face of the planet. They were so excited to meet me in person...though I was equally as excited to meet them. For a kid who endured more than her fair share of teasing (what we now call bullying) growing up, it was so strange to be met with such enthusiasm and kindness. I wasn't sure how things would turn out when we had never met in person before, but those ten years of being online chums made it so easy to fall in step with each other.

I re-learned how to read a map. If I have never told you this, I'll admit right now that I am directionally-challenged. I could get lost leaving my backyard. I never, ever drive to a new place without using my GPS. These friends don't use--I don't even know if they own--a GPS. At night, the map would get pulled out and Lorrie and Beth--the main drivers--would discuss the route to take the next morning.

I'm now eager for more road trips and to do something like this with my girls. A tiny challenge will be to find somewhere we all want to go because the girls and I like very different things. Their tastes are also very different from each other's. But a road trip to a new place doesn't sound so intimidating as it once did.

There are two sites I would definitely like to visit one day: Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri and the Wilder Farm in Burke, New York. I also wouldn't mind paying a visit to the home of Rose Wilder Lane, which also happens to be for sale right now. I would love to see someone come along and turn it into a museum, but the Danbury Museum and Historical Society is located about 10 minutes from her home on King Street, so there really doesn't seem to be a need for it.

My road trip last summer was truly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of adventure. It was eight days filled with laughter and friendship; the memories of which I will never forget.

To read Day 7 of my adventure, please click here.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

DVD Review: Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Last summer's road trip to visit many of the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites left me with a renewed sense of awe over how much she experienced in her lifetime. So, imagine my delight when, earlier this year, I was approached by Friendly Family Productions to review Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. This special new edition includes not only a 56-minute documentary on my favorite writer, it also includes 35 minutes of bonus features that are narrated, directed, and co-produced by Dean Butler, who played Almanzo Wilder on the classic Little House on the Prairie television series. Butler's Legacy Documentaries banner also brought Wilder fans, Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura, which we reviewed here.

This documentary does not journey through Laura's entire life. Staying true to the Legacy Documentaries brand, it captures the defining moments of Wilder's life, and does so in a touching way that only those who have been part of Wilder's legacy can accomplish. While Laura's early life and marriage to Almanzo are mentioned, they only serve to sharpen the focus of the documentary, which remains strongly on Wilder's writing career: how the loss of her family, along with the concern that the pioneering era was slipping away, inspired her to put pen to paper; how farm life inspired her journalism work for the Missouri Ruralist; how the sometimes tense relationship with her daughter, Rose, shaped her writing, and how through that experience Wilder grew as a writer; the creation of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, and the series' continued popularity with young readers.

As was done with the Almanzo Wilder production, historical photographs, book excerpts, reenactments, and expert insights give viewers a glimpse into the life of one of America's most beloved writers. While many of the photographs are ones Wilder aficionados have seen before, they have been used in new ways to bring a special touch to Laura's story. The artwork of illustrator Cheryl Harness captures the essence of Wilder's Little House series and brings this legacy to life through animation. Discussions with Laura Ingalls Wilder biographer, John E. Miller, and Pamela Smith Hill, editor of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, add depth to this engaging story covering Wilder's legacy.

Bonus features include topics on Native Americans and African Americans on the prairie, the beautiful work of American artist Harvey Dunn, and the Morgan Horse. Viewers are encouraged to travel behind the scenes with director Dean Butler as he chronicles his work on this documentary, and there is a discussion with illustrator Cheryl Harness on her contributions.

Produced in association with Friendly Family Productions, Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a must have for any Wilder fan.

Directors: Dean Butler
Producers: Dean Butler, Robin Bernheim-Burger, Trip Friendly (Executive Producer)
Format: Color, Closed-captioned
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Friendly Family Productions, LLC
Run Time: 91 minutes

I received a free copy of this DVD from Friendly Family Productions. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.