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Museums of Oddities

If you find museums to be boring, dull, dusty, and all together something you’d put on your to-do list right after organize your sock drawer and right before scrub the toilets, then it’s possible you’re visiting the wrong ones. In no particular order, here are a few real-life museums (I promise I’m not making these up) that just might pique your interest:

  • The Mob Museum in Las Vegas (full name: The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement). Everything you wanted to know about organized crime, but were afraid to ask (partially because that kind of browsing history can get you into trouble with the FBI). “Shadows and whispers. G-Men and Made Men. Whether you like it or not, this is American history. Real stories are brought to life with engaging, multi-sensory exhibits and unparalleled insights from those on the front lines of both sides of the battle,” says the website. Cops and robbers for grownups!
  • If that’s not macabre enough, try The Old Operating Theatre, the London Bridge. No, no, this isn’t a museum about how to operate the London Bridge. Think the other kind of operating … that’s right: Victorian-era surgical practices, back before anesthetics. Yikes! Located just south of London Bridge.
  • If fanciful and whimsical are more your thing, go by The Cryptozoology Museum, in Portland, Maine. What’s cryptozoology, you may ask? Why, it’s the study of hidden, obscure, and/or unknown animals, of course. Naturally, we’re all familiar with the “normal” sasquatches, yetis, Loch Ness monsters, abominable snowmen, etc., but what about the Dover Demon, the Montauk Monster, the Jersey Devil, the Thylacine, the Coelacanth, and the Napes/Skunk Apes?
  • The Neon Museum, again in Las Vegas, is a fun one to go see if you like your lights big and bright. They even have a “neon boneyard.”

Neon Boneyard, Mikayla Whitmore,

  • If magic is your thing, you’ll love visiting The Magic Circle, in London. Known as the most famous magicians’ club in the world, it’s no surprise that it’s not open for casual tours or walk-ins. But you can buy tickets for your group, or go see a show, or wait for one of their “open days.” It’s sure to leave you slack-jawed and baffled, in the best way possible!
  • Back to the disturbing, but strangely fascinating, is The Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Boasting a huge skull collection (parts of Einstein’s brain included), medical instruments, anatomical bodies, and *gulp* a whole “wet collection.” I’m not sure I want to know … and yet …


  • While not technically a museum, The Mystery Spot, in Michigan, is a fun go-to. This area was discovered by surveyors in the 1950s, when their equipment mysteriously stopped working correctly.  “Where else can a tall person seem smaller by comparison or climb a wall and tilt precariously into the air but not fall?” the website asks. Well, more than one place, oddly enough: there’s another mystery spot in Gold Hill, Oregon. The Oregon Vortex is “a glimpse of a strange world where the improbable is the commonplace and everyday physical facts are reversed. No matter your education or profession, you will find a challenge to all your accepted theories.”
  • In a suburb of San Antonio, you can go visit Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum. Yep, you read that correctly. The only thing weirder than Barney’s exhibit of toilet-seat art (located in his garage), is that he adds a new piece of toilet seat art annually … for his wife … for their anniversary. According to his patrons, 93-year-old Barney and his beloved commode toppers are something you shouldn’t miss.

photo, Toilet Seat Art Museum

  • The UFO Museum is located … naturally … in Roswell, New Mexico, and if you’re murky on the details of little green men (ahem, they were gray, if you recall), this place should jog your memory … or probe it. Haha! Just a little UFO humor.
  • If you like your art on the ginormous side, stop by The Porter Sculpture Park, in South Dakota. With over 50 “larger than life” roadside sculptures (like the 60-foot bull below), it’s a must for the kiddos traveling with you: this one is hands-on! You an even take your pooch.


  • The International Banana Museum is in Mecca, CA. We don’t know exactly why this place exists, but bring your two scoops of vanilla, chocolate fudge sauce, and a cherry, just in case.
  • How about Gnomesville, A Place Where Everybody Feels at Gnome? Gnomesville, Australia, population 7,000. No one knows exactly how this outdoor museum began; some say it started with one lone gnome to watch over the area and people began adding more and more. Whatever the origin, Gnomesville has grown so much it had to be relocated to a larger plot of land.


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Christmas All Year Long

About an hour north of my farm, folks celebrate Christmas all year long.

You would, too, if you lived in a place called Santa.

Yep, nestled in the hills and forests of the Idaho Panhandle sits a tiny town named Santa.


But Santa, Idaho, isn’t the only town that rustles up the holiday spirit year-round. How about

  • Santa Claus, Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana
  • Snow, Idaho
  • North Pole, Alaska
  • Silver Bell, Arizona
  • Eggnog, Utah
  • Christmas Valley, Oregon
  • Holly, Washington
  • Christmas, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, and Mississippi
  • Shepherd, Montana
  • Elf, North Carolina
  • Mistletoe, Arkansas and Kentucky
  • Bethlehem (this one’s in 18 states)

Also, nearly all of Santa’s reindeer have towns named after them. (Not to mention the 36 locations with “Reindeer” in their names.)

  • Rudolph Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin
  • Dasher (Creek), Georgia
  • Dancer (Flats), Texas
  • Prancer (WAIT, where’s Prancer? He must have been out on a mission when they handed out towns!)
  • Vixen, Louisiana
  • Comet, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia
  • Cupid, Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma
  • Donner, California, Florida, and Louisiana
  • Blitzen, Oregon

You’ll find all these and many more in William D. Crump’s The Christmas Encyclopedia.


Packed with everything Christmas and now in its third edition, the encyclopedia includes Christmas carols and hymns; customs; historical events; popular symbols; plants; celebrations; Christmas movies, plays, books, and TV; and more. A perfect early present for anyone who loves everything Christmas.

Hitching a ride …

If you’re taking a road trip this summer, you might run into a strange-looking hitchhiker. But you don’t have to worry about giving this traveler a ride …


in fact, you’d be helping to make history!

hitchBOT is a robot from Ontario, Canada. She’s already traveled … on her own! … across Canada and Germany. Then, in her own words, “I took a much-needed arts and culture vacation in the Netherlands. But what can I say … I am a free-spirited robot that loves to keep busy!” (hitchBOT’s creators refer to her as “it,” but “it” has a distinctively female voice. And yep, you heard that right … hitchBOT speaks!)

hitchBOT is the brainchild of Dr. David Harris Smith, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University, and Dr. Frauke Zeller, Assistant Professor of Professional Communication at Ryerson University, who worked with a collaborative, interdisciplinary team of researchers from the fields of visual arts, engineering, computer science, and communication with an unusual goal in mind. “Usually, we are concerned whether we can trust robots,” says Zeller, “but this project takes it the other way around and asks: Can robots trust human beings?”

“We expect hitchBOT to be charming and trustworthy enough in its conversation to secure rides through Canada,” said Zeller at the beginning of the experiment. And, after the first three legs of her adventure, he reports, “hitchBOT was very well received as it made its way across Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands, proving that robots can, indeed, trust humans.”

Humans can pass hitchBOT along to another traveler, leave her at a restaurant or shop, or simply use her kickstand to leave her on the roadside with her thumb raised for a ride. “It has a really low-tech look to it, something we dubbed the ‘yard-sale aesthetic,'” said Harris Smith, to help deter thieves. “The head is actually an acrylic cake-saver. hitchBOT looks like somebody has cobbled together odds and ends, like pool noodles, bucket, cake saver, garden gloves, and Wellies.”

In her own words, hitchBOT adds, “I am approximately 3 feet tall and weigh about 25 pounds. I have camera vision, a microphone, and a speaker system, which gives me the ability to see, hear, and speak. I also have a sense of space, thanks to my 3G and GPS capabilities, and I am aware of where I am and where I want to go next. For my trip across America, my family has been kind enough to install a battery meter on my beer-bucket torso. It can tell my new friends how much energy I have left (so they can avoid a crankyBOT!) and whether it is difficult for me to understand them.”


On July 17, hitchBOT hit the road in America for a cross-country tour, starting at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. She’ll hitch her way to San Francisco, one ride at a time, to end up at the Exploratorium. In honor of her beer-bucket torso, she’s even prepared a bucket list of things she would like to see and do while traveling the U.S., including visiting Times Square in New York City, Millennium Park in Illinois, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

On your travels this summer, keep your eyes peeled for this unusual hitchhiker. And follow hitchBOT’s adventures at, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Trailer Show in Lindsborg, Kansas

… and our first glamp-mobile is ready for viewing! Let’s begin with THE pink chair for sitting …


with a whole lot of adorable kiddos! (Sweetest, most polite kids we’ve met in a long time.)


A bloomin’ pair of bloomers for wind checks.


And glamporific book signings. Since my mother was celebrating her 60th b-day, she treated herself to a surprise, well, actually, she WAS the surprise … guest. No one but chapter leader, April Choate, knew she was going to show up. Who doesn’t like a birthday surprise?!

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You’ve Got Mail (Neckwarmer & Mittens)

Wyoming rancher Anita Shepperson found her way into my heart again. (I met up with Anita and friends last summer in South Dakota for a weekend of glamping.)

This time, she surprised me with a knitted cowl/neckwarmer and mittens that she’d created using wool from the Rambouillet ewes she raises on her sheep ranch. Fuzzy, warm feelings!!!! Thanks, Anita. They’re gorgeous!!! Love.

Here these beauties are modeled by Saralou, our seamstress/crafter. Love the handmade antler buttons Anita used. But of course! Anita makes her own butter and cheese. She also weaves extraordinary baskets and so much more in addition to running a large Wyoming ranch. She’s what you’d call self-sufficient to the max.


You’ve Got Mail

Can you feel it in the air? We’re transitioning to fall, and soon … winter and the holidays! We’re just finishing the December issue of my magazine and have been decorating Christmas trees. Tra-la-la, deck the halls with …

Michele Hieb made this adorable little prim angel for me. I met Michele during our Glampers on the Loose trip to South Dakota. Just lovely, darling, sweet, and thoughtful.

What do a canary and a cat have in common?

So while Ace, Kim, and I were truckin’ down two-lane highways, thrifting, setting up our glampsite, taking down our glampsite, and getting our honky-tonk on in South Dakota … the animals we left behind were awaiting our return. Rascal, our design studio mascot (tortoiseshell cat), was being taken care of by Ace’s roommate Andy, also a farmhand here (Ace, Kim and Andy are roommates at Kim’s farm), and Daffodil, my canary, was offered space in Carol’s office, with my husband taking care of her on weekends. (Kim brought her Border Collie, Riley, on our trip.)

Part of the job of taking care of my canary is feeding her a deluxe daily diet of fresh veggies and fruits, soaked grains, hard-boiled egg yolks from the bigger of her kin, AND gathering up her gorgeous blue eggs she lays 3-4 times per week. (Yup, she’s pampered.)

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fences … in Dr. Seuss cadence

On the way to South Dakota for a glamping meet-up and greet-up with the lovely ladies of Glampers on the Loose, we began to notice a common element alongside the road during our trek.


So many fences. Of all shapes, sizes, and shades of brown.

Some were old.

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Montana’s Biggest Weekend

Here are some more photos from the rodeo we stopped to watch in Dillon, Montana, on our way back from glamping in South Dakota.

And here are the ladies of the rodeo. From trick riders, to the drill team, to barrel racing.

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Well, ain’t that darn cute!

My ’68 Airstream, ‘Lily’, and I had a real bawl on our recent trip to South Dakota. Get it, bawl? Hahaha, ok sorry! Don’t have a cow. I mean DO have a cow, a backyard cow, a miniature Jersey to be specific. 😉

I am in the midst of writing my next book, Milk Cow Kitchen, and here’s the deal …

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