A Hello Fresh Review!

Just to start off this blog is not sponsored by Hello Fresh. This was something we decided to do without even thinking about writing a review until after we got the box in the mail. And it was actually Tyler’s idea to type up a post about it too.

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I have been asking Tyler to try a meal delivery kit for awhile now. I just wanted to know if it was even worth it and what all the hype was about. One of the vloggers I love watching on YouTube is Lindsay DeFranco and her channel TheDefrancoFam. She just recently became a mom of two and gives an extremely honest and open view into what it’s like being a parent. Before having her second son, her and her first born would put out Hello Fresh videos. It always seemed easy to do, even with a little kid running around, and the food always looked good but it was a sponsored series so how true was it? They had a coupon on their videos for 30 bucks off your first order. Knowing how much Tyler loves a good deal I brought it up to him and he went for it.

Usually a box of three meals for two people comes in at 53.93 including shipping. With the coupon we paid 23.93, which really isn’t that bad. But paying full-price is usually a little less than what we pay for 6 meals that usually have leftovers. So right away we knew this was something we were just going to try and then be done with. I also hoped it wouldn’t even be that good so we wouldn’t want to keep doing it. They have a good amount of options to pick from, not to many and not to little, and offered a good variety of cuisines. We decided to try their Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash, and Sweet-as-Honey Chicken. The first two were part of their British Invasion menu and we knew they were both something we usually wouldn’t try to make ourselves and the chicken seemed like a safe bet. We put the order in to be delivered on a Friday because the weekends are when we normally go out on meals and waited for them arrive.

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The meals come in a specially made box to keep everything cool while shipping. The produce is separated into brown bags by meal and the meat is stored under a reusable ice pack on the bottom of the box. They provide everything you need in the appropriate sizes, include recipe sheets that guide you step-by-step, and include a nutrition sheet. We were really surprised at how nutritious and low calorie the meals ended up being. As we were going through the meals, we quickly realized it might not be enough food for Tyler. He usually eats twice us much as me and there seemed to be only enough for one serving each. Luckily we had a apple crumb pie waiting in the freezer. We put the groceries away and waited for dinner to have out first meal.

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We decided to do the Bangers and Mash first and as a dinner. The meal came with little potatoes, a zucchini, three sweet Italian sausages, grape tomatoes, green onion, and chicken demi-glace and thyme for the gravy. Tyler was in charge of the Bangers and I was in charge of the Mash. Honestly, there was not enough potatoes for two good sized servings, I think it was six mini potatoes total. I also messed them up. I followed the directions to a tee though. It said place them in a pot with water and salt, bring to boil, and cook for 12 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. I did just that but being easily pierced by a knife is a lot different than being easily pierced with a fork or easily mashed. Knifes are sharp and are meant to pierce things easily. After we fixed the potatoes the best we could, we ended up with an extremely amazing meal. The sausages, zucchini and grape tomatoes are broiled together in the oven and came out perfect, the mash was okay, but the star of the show was the gravy. It was savory and perfect on everything.

The following day for lunch we made the Fish and Chips. That’s when I saw that the bag said, Make First, but oh well. I did this one all by myself. It was the longest of the dishes we had to make but it wasn’t too bad since you do all of the prep before you even start cooking. This meal came with two giant tilapia filets, baby potatoes, zucchini, a pickle, lemon, tartar sauce ingredients, and the fish batter ingredients. The potatoes get thrown into the oven first with a little bit of the seasoning for the fish batter. Then you get the fish going. I am not a big fan of frying. I am always terrified of the oil spilling or popping or catching on fire. Luckily this was an extremely shallow fry, I mean barely any oil goes into the pan. The recipe said we should get about six fish fingers total but we ended up with nine giant ones. You simply throw them in the wet batter until coated, let a little drip off, and throw them in the oil for five minutes each side. While that is going the potatoes get flipped and the tartar sauce gets made. I never knew how easy it was to make tartar sauce. It was just a quarter of the pickle diced up, sour cream, mayo, and lemon juice. The mayo came in a really cute tiny jar but it was so hard to get it out, a little squeeze packet would have been better. I was finishing up my second batch of fish when the potatoes were done. They come out and the zucchini goes in until brown. I ended up having to throw the potatoes and fish into the oven to warm them back up because they had to sit while I finished the last batch of fish. This ended up being another amazing meal. The fish was fall apart tender and crispy, the potatoes had great flavor, zucchini is always good, and the tartar sauce was excellent.

Our last meal was the Sweet-as-Honey Chicken. Again, I did this one by myself and it was okay. It was the simplest to put together, just chicken with a honey ginger soy glaze, rice, and green beans. The chicken was pitiful. We had one whole breast and one mangled small breast. The small one ended up a little dry, even though I took it off the heat early. The glaze was really good but didn’t live up to the name. Yes it was sweet but it was more ginger forward than honey. The green beans were delicious and I would have much rather just ate them covered in the sauce than the chicken. I was quite nervous about cooking the rice on the stove top because every time I had before was a disaster. This time turned out really well but it was only a half cup of rice which was barely enough for both of us. This recipe was on the bottom of the list of all the food we made this weekend, even the non-Hello Fresh meals.

Overall, our experience with Hello Fresh was quite positive. I really like that they send the recipe cards so you can still make the food without getting it in a kit. We deactivated our account to stop deliveries but still have access to see their menu and recipes. We are thinking of trying some on our own to see how it turns out. Tyler and I are already adding the Bangers and Mash and the Fish and Chips to our regular meal rotation. The Sweet-as-Honey Chicken will probably never happen again unless we swap the chicken breast with chicken thighs and maybe add another veggie to make more of a stir-fry.

If you’ve been dying to try Hello Fresh, or any meal kit, I would recommend checking it out. They usually have a coupon to get money off your first order or you can dig around on the internet and find your own!

Edit: I wrote this review write after each meal but wanted to add that we have already made the Bangers and Mash again but with ingredients we bought ourselves. It was just as amazing as the first time!

 

 

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Turkey Run and Twirling Gone Wrong

This past weekend, Friday since our weekend starts a little earlier, Tyler and I actually left the house! I had suggested going bowling which got Tyler to start suggesting other things we could do as well. He brought up going to Turkey Run State Park, which we’ve done two other times before. The weather has been unseasonably warm and Friday was a really nice day for it. So the original plan was bowling Thursday night and Turkey Run Friday. Well we didn’t end up going bowling because you have to reserve a lane and we didn’t so we just decided not to go. Which worked out because we would be well rested for all of the hiking we would be doing at Turkey Run.

 

Turkey Run is a really pretty state park. There are woods, and streams, and canyons, and a shit ton of stairs (or at least on the trails we do). The boys love going on the trails, especially Percy. He loves walking through the leaves, tracking squirrels, and jumping on rocks. It is just about the only time he is normal dog, except for when it comes to walking through a stream. It doesn’t matter how small it is, he will hesitate before leaping and gets panicky if he has to get his feet wet. I really enjoyed it this time because the park was empty. We saw the occasional person but for the most part we had the trails to ourselves.

We got their around noon and ate lunch. This was after we finished cleaning up dog throw-up in the backseat. Percy used to get really, really carsick. To a point where he had to stop him from eating a few hours before he got in the car. This was back when we first got him and hasn’t really been an issue for over a year. But he ended up getting carsick this time. I think it was a combination of not being on a long car ride in a while and the roads are pretty curvy on the way there. Luckily, I had invested in a car seat cover back when he was doing it all the time and nothing got on the actual seat fabric. Anyway back to the good part.

 

So we ate lunch and hit the trails. We learned from our last visit that staying away from the more water-based trails located across the suspension bridge were our best bet. We did trails 6 and 7. 6 leads to Turkey Run Hollow and is mostly inside these really cool canyons. 7 is up a steep flight of stairs and involves a lot of steps and heavy breathing and sweating. But it was worth it see how much the boys loved being in nature.

 

I got a little worried about Opie half way through when I realized how much jumping and moving he had to do. Since his neck injury we have been keeping his walks nice and light. My worries were unfounded though because he handled the trails like a champ (a slightly overweight champ, but still a champ).

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On Saturday, Tyler’s mom, her fiancé, and his sister came down and took us out to lunch. They got to see our new apartment too. We ate at one of our favorite pizza places, Rockstone. We got their amazing bread sticks with dipping sauces and two pizzas, one was a roasted pork pizza with a delicious sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. It was a really nice weekend until Sunday night.

Sunday is my cleaning day. I do the laundry and clean up different areas of the apartment while I go. I was really proud of myself because I actually finished the laundry at an appropriate time. Usually I am rushing around trying to get it done during commercial breaks of The Walking Dead. I was done, watching Netflix, and getting ready to make dinner. I made one of favorite meals, Chicken Enchiladas, and that’s when it happened. I tried to be cute and do a one footed twirl to say something to Tyler, I don’t even remember what, when I nailed my left foot on the corner of the dishwasher. The pain was awful but Tyler said Chris Pratt was on the t.v. and I wanted to see him so I ignored it and ran in the living room. When I went back into kitchen and stepped on the outside of my foot it was like I stepped on a knife. For the rest of the night every step hurt but was manageable. I figured by morning it wouldn’t be a problem but boy was I wrong.

Monday came and I tried to get of bed and couldn’t put any weight on my foot. I e-mailed into work to let them know I wasn’t coming in and waited for Tyler to wake up to go to the doctor. It was nice to lay around on a Monday, other than the awful pain in my foot. Tyler took me to get an x-ray and luckily I didn’t break it but I did bruise it pretty badly. A bone bruise is almost as bad as a break but nothing is broken. They didn’t confirm that’s what I had but that is what it seems like I have. They hooked me up with a boot, some light painkillers, and sent me on my way to get crutches. I hate using the crutches. It is awkward and it kills my armpits. I’ve had them two days and have pretty much given up on them.

Today hasn’t been as bad as the last two. This morning I was able to put a little weight on it but didn’t push it. Hopefully by the end of the week I can get back to twirling but without injury!

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Thanksgiving Came and Went

I don’t know about you but I had a pretty successful Thanksgiving! Now that the food coma I’ve been in all weekend is over I can finally write a blog about it.

Kelsey and Kendal came down on Tuesday and we all met at Emily and Ryan’s for the Winterlights at Newfields. Newfields is the new all encompassing name of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and associated grounds. It was a chilly and rainy night but the lights were amazing. The best part was that as we were walking through, it started snowing! I was still sick at this point and it probably didn’t help being out in that weather but it was still worth it.

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We had already decided Wednesday would be our prep day. I had to work until 11:30 and then went to Emily’s to get a jump on things. Emily and Ryan hosted last year and again this year but this time the guest list doubled. We had a quick sushi lunch and started prepping my made from scratch pumpkin pie. I actually roasted two sugar pumpkins and honestly will probably never do it again. The texture was weird and stringy which was my fault because I should have blended it until smooth or maybe strained it before baking. It still  looked pretty sweet though! My pie crust was also made from scratch and came out perfectly! I then prepped the celery, onion and bread for my stuffing. I use a loaf of bread instead of pre-made croutons like the recipe says. I just slice it, dice it, and bake it in the oven until they are dried out. Last year we stuffed the bird and baked it all together and went for it again this year! After we were done prepping and got some cleaning done, Emily, Kendal, and I had an epic Nerf War! I only got hit in the face once! I left to go home to Tyler and the boys and get a good nights sleep. After I left, Ryan got to work making the green bean casserole and corn casserole so they could just be baked off before serving. He also prepped the deviled eggs which are essential for any get-together!

On Turkey Day I was up bright and early to head back over to Emily’s to start the turkey. We made the mistake last year of starting it way too late and ended up eating way too late. I was also disappointed because it wasn’t as crispy as I would have wanted either. So by 8:50 a.m. the bird was in the oven. Thanks to Ryan we made quick work of it! We started by rinsing and drying the bird, which we had to do twice since we forgot about the inside. Then I mixed together the stuffing and stuffed a little in the neck and the rest of it in the main cavity. I threw the neck, giblets, and heart into the roasting pan and added turkey stock to the bottom while Ryan rubbed the bird down with butter. We put it in the oven, then I quickly realized I forgot to tent the breasts which was easily fixed. It wouldn’t be normal if I didn’t make at least one small mistake!

I helped Emily do a little bit more cleaning up, got Kendal ready, and got ready myself. Then we set up the appetizer station. We had a meat and cheese board, deviled eggs, ham and pickle rolls-ups (a favorite of mine), sweet potato bacon bites and more. Emily, with Kendal’s help, made our Thanksgiving punch. It was cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and ginger-ale. Kendal could drink it straight from the pitcher and adults could add a splash of alcohol from the bar.

The bird came out around 3:00 and it was so pretty I almost teared up. It was cooked to right temperature, so was the stuffing, and the outside was perfectly brown and crisp. It needed to rest for 30 minutes before cutting so I started on the gravy. I strained the liquid from the bottom of the roasting pan, skimmed off the fat and added flour to thicken it up. It was also beautiful. We also used the resting time to finish up the sides and get the buffet set up. Ryan carved the turkey and it was so tender it was just falling off the bone. All together we had turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, corn casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, overnight salad, and the traditional canned cranberry sauce.

Everything came together perfectly. Emily and Ryan recently got a gorgeous dining room table and decked it out for the holiday. I felt so bad because I was still a little sick and as everyone sat down to eat I had a major cough attack and had to run out of the room like a weirdo. I still came back and devoured everything on my plate though!

The meal ended with three pies, my pumpkin pie, a french silk pie, and a pecan pie. Everyone really seemed to like my strange textured pie. 

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I left after everyone had pie. I was tired and I missed Opie and Percy. I got home right after Tyler got home from his families and we ate leftover turkey and gravy sandwiches on rolls.  It was really nice to meet some of Ryan’s family and just be surrounded by great people on Thanksgiving. I also love any time I get to hang out with Mr. Kendal!

Tyler and I have been working through all our leftovers. A lot of them didn’t last the first night, but we still have turkey and ham (from Tyler). I also ended up making four pumpkin pies total. I went home on Wednesday night and made a pie for Tyler and myself with the leftover mix from the one I made at Emily’s. It didn’t turn out at all. It wouldn’t cook through and then, of course, the texture. So I tried it again with canned pumpkin but it came out wrong again, I also really messed up the crust. Tyler and I really wanted a pumpkin pie so I went to the store on Sunday got another can of pumpkin puree and just followed the directions on the can. It came out perfect! It just goes to show you that sometimes from scratch isn’t always better.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and are getting in the mood for a festive Christmas. If you are in the Indianapolis area, my work hosts The Festival of Trees and it will really get you in the Christmas mood! Until next time folks!

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An Update and Prepping for Thanksgiving

There was no blog last week but I had a really good reason, Tyler and I were both sick. In fact, I am still sick and almost didn’t do a blog this week either. I was feeling much better until yesterday when I woke up feeling much worse. So this blog will be a short and sweet update.

Since the last blog, Tyler and I went to a late Halloween Party on November 4th. It has become a yearly tradition to go to “Rumpleween” and it is always a great time! I drink way to much, play games, dance, and get to see my old work friends. The next day is not fun. I woke up feeling like death. My solution to feeling like death, Tylenol, water, and a surprisingly comfortable bed on a cool bathroom floor. It worked and I when I woke back up I was able to crank out two amazing football Sunday meals and get the laundry done. Go me!

The week after that was sick week. It started with a sore throat on Monday, missing work on Tuesday, and just feeling like junk the rest of the week. But, I was determined to feel better by Saturday. Saturday was my family’s early Early Thanksgiving at my grandparents house. I had already RSVP’d for Tyler and myself and promised to bring the green bean casserole. We also didn’t have Early Thanksgiving last year so it was even more important to go this year. Friday night, I loaded up on Nyquil and hoped in the morning I would be 100% better. Saturday morning rolled around, and I was maybe 55% better but decided to soldier on. I had woken up late, thanks Nyquil, and was in a panic trying to get my green bean casserole prepared. I am, of course, an over ambitious home cook and wanted to make my green bean casserole from scratch. I spent an hour snapping green beans and chopping mushrooms only to get to my sauce and find the heavy cream I had just bought the day before was spoiled. I was defeated. I felt like crap, my cold medicine wasn’t doing it’s job, my green bean casserole was not working out, and I was no were near ready to go. So, I decided to throw in the towel. I called my grandparents and told them we wouldn’t be coming. Tyler had decided the day before he probably shouldn’t go because he was way sicker than me but I thought I was fine. I didn’t think I sounded as bad as him but my grandma told me, rather politely, that I sounded terrible over the phone. We still needed something for lunch though so Tyler ran to the store to get fresh heavy cream so I could finish the green bean casserole and he also got a box of stuffing so we could at least feel like it was Early Thanksgiving. It’s a shame my family didn’t get to try it because it was really good!

This last week was a blur of cold medicine, work, video games, and life. I started playing Last of Us all by myself. I have watched Tyler play through it twice but I have never played it. It is probably our favorite video game. I’m not very good at it though. Aiming is hard, it is really scary at times, and I just get anxious. On the plus side, I’ve only died a few times because I honestly just get so anxious that instead of shooting the bad guys and infected, I just do a flurry of hitting and stabbing to kill them. They can’t shoot/bite you if they are too busy getting punched to death.

This coming week is Thanksgiving week! We are doing another Thanksgiving at my sister Emily’s house and once again I am charged with the Turkey. Last year, my turkey was amazing but I, of course, forgot to take a picture of it. This year I will not forget! I am also going to try to do it even better this year. My skin could have been a little darker and crispier so that is the goal. I am also charged with making a pumpkin pie from scratch, like with an actual sugar pumpkin. I’ve never done it before but I’m really excited to try! I will most likely buy a back-up just in case though. I’m also doing a from scratch crust. I had to switch my hours around at work to get them all in before the holiday so unfortunately that means I have to work tomorrow. On the plus side, I will be out and about tomorrow and can get all my grocery shopping done. Here is a link to last year’s Thanksgiving Blog!

Speaking of work, today is the first official day of the Festival of Trees at the Indiana Historical Society. When I was an intern back in 2014, it was just a tree here and there, now there are trees everywhere. Each tree is sponsored by a local business or group and all are just beautifully decorated. The feature this year is a 30-foot tree in the main hall that you can walk into. If you follow me on Snapchat, I am going to walk around tomorrow and take a few pictures to post on my story. It is really a great Christmas experience and if you are in the area I recommend checking it out along with our exhibits to learn a little bit more about the state of Indiana.

Alright, my cold medicine is wearing off and I’m also hungry so this is the end of the blog. I didn’t have any pictures for this blog so here is the last few I took on my phone.

 

An Obsession With Plants

I usually ask Tyler if we can get a new pet daily. It’s usually a kitten or a puppy, sometimes a rat or a sugar glider, and I even tried to compromise and asked for fish. All of them were met with a no, except for the fish which got a maybe. Technically we are only allowed to have two animals so I knew it was a long shot anyway, but it didn’t stop me from pestering him. I just like having little animal babies to take care of and cuddle with. Somehow this all led to us getting plants, it doesn’t quite make sense but in a way it does. It was one of those days where I was asking continuously for a pet when Tyler said how about we just get some plants instead and that is exactly what we did.

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It all started with four plants several years ago, maybe three, I can’t quite remember. We each picked out two, one big and one small. I have never had or cared for a plant so it was a learning experience. The two little plants struggled from the beginning. We think it was a factor of light and watering since they were both more tropical plants than the other two. They both died within weeks of each other. The two big ones did really well. My plant had large oval leaves with a deep purple on the bottom, I believe it was a Calathea. It lasted a year before it died. We didn’t change anything about how it was watered or how much light it received, one day it’s leaves started to turn brown and no new sprouts were popping up. Tyler’s big plant, a Pothos, is still going strong (pictured above). It did stop growing new leaves around the same time as mine died but after repotting it and giving it some TLC it started vining out. As you can see in the picture its got some great vines and has a bunch of new leaves still sprouting out all over.

Ever since those four, our life has become a blur of plants. It is a serious obsession. We have succulents, snake plants, herbs, a giant palm, and more! I think the easiest way to go through all of the plants is room by room. We will start with the living room since it by far has the most plants! The pictures are in the order I will go in explaining them. There is our original plant baby and a more tropical plant we picked up at ALDI of all places, a Dwarf Umbrella Tree. When we got the ALDI plant, I really didn’t think it would last long. It had a weird powder all over the leaves and no baby leaves at all. It also didn’t help that we already had a bad history of tropical plants dying on us. It has really surprised us with how well it has held up and even sprouted a few new leaves over the summer. We have four succulents in the living room. The biggest one, a Jade Plant, is our second oldest plant. We got it with another succulent that didn’t last long. The two in the orange and green pots are two of our newer additions and the dark blue potted one is a little bit older. The light green Pothos is our third oldest plant and one we have struggled with a bit. It wasn’t dying but it also wasn’t growing for the longest time. It’s only been in the last year that it has started to vine out and, like the older Pothos, it has a few new sprouts coming out as well. Finally, we have our two largest plants which we got at the same time at Kroger, the snake plant and the palm. When we got the palm we were still in our old apartment and it took up so much room. I thought it would die for sure since again it is a tropical plant but it has been doing amazing! It has one new sprout about to unfold and is working on two more. This snake plant is what led to Tyler’s obsession with snake plants as you will see.

The den has the next abundance of plants. On the desk by the window are our remaining herbs and a new succulent we got from Tyler’s mom just this week. These are from our second batch of herbs, the first time we tried it they all died very quickly. In this batch we had cilantro, parsley and basil. The cilantro lasted awhile but at one point it started bolting and had to be thrown away, now we just have parsley and basil, both of which are constant problems. The parsley is the better of the two, no matter how much we cut off it has always grown back quite well. The basil is a pain in the ass. It started dying just before we moved so I snipped off the good bits, put them in water to grow roots, then repotted them. They have been doing fine until I went to water them today. They haven’t been absorbing as much water as they should so the soil was too wet and the bottoms started to die. I pulled off all the dead leaves and repotted it again today before I sat down to type this. Some of the roots had died on the transplants which accounts for why they weren’t absorbing water. If it happens again, I’m just going to be done with it. We also have our second snake plant, again from Tyler’s mom, and a Chinese Evergreen Plant.

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We have one small plant in the kitchen/dining room but we could use more. This is another plant that isn’t dying but doesn’t seem to want to grow. It is also another plant from Tyler’s mom, see a pattern here? We actually got Tyler’s mom hooked on plants too. We gave her a Chinese Evergreen Plant as a gift and it spiraled from there. It really does just take one plant to start the plant obsession.

Finally the bedroom, the newest room to get some plants. In our old apartment, we had giant windows which led to a very bright bedroom. We always had the window covered so it wasn’t really a good spot for plants. Now we have a smaller window that doesn’t need to be covered and is bright enough for plants but not bright enough to be annoying while we sleep. The bedroom has two snake plants and two succulents, all from Tyler’s mom and all are fairly new to our plant family.

There are a few more places I still have plans for that need plants. I would like a lemon button fern for my bedside table. They are such cute little ferns and don’t need too much light which would be perfect for where my table is at. I also want two low-light plants for both of the bathrooms and maybe a floor plant for the shower room. There really isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about getting another plant or find a good spot for a plant to go in our apartment. We have lost some plants along the way and it can be sad to see them die, especially when you really put the effort in to keep them going. We have learned a lot over the years and won’t stop getting plants anytime soon. It has really become a beautiful obsession.

I just want to give a shout out to Tyler’s mom! Thank you Sandy for giving us so many plants and helping to fuel our obsession!

 

A Lonely Lady, A Horde of Suitors, A Farm of Death

It is that time of year folks! The goblins, ghouls, witches, and warlocks have come out to play! I have always had this connection with Halloween and it is by far my favorite holiday. I’m more into the historical aspect then the get so scared you throw up aspect. I will watch my fair share of scary movies around this time but usually through the gaps of my fingers while I cover my eyes. To keep with the holiday spirit, these weeks post will be different from my usual posts. I wanted to branch out and I thought a spooky, but true, story would be ideal. As you may know, I work at the Indiana Historical Society and decided to stick close to home and tell the story of one of our own local serial killers, Belle Gunness.

Belle Gunness, originally Brynhild Paulsdatter Strseth, was born in Norway in 1859 to a poor family. Very little is known about her life in Norway other than the fact she worked as a servant to a local wealthy family to save up enough money to emigrate to America in 1881. Once in America, she changed her name to Belle and again worked in service but had dreams of becoming wealthy. Even at a young age, Belle was already a large and strong woman. She was said to be 5’8″ and at least 200 pounds.

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She married Mads Ditlev Anton Sorenson in Chicago, Illinois in 1884. The newly married couple opened a sweets shop together but it was unsuccessful. After two years the business mysteriously burned down and the insurance collected bought the pair a new home. Sources vary on if their were children in the home, if those children were their own, or if they were foster children. A common theme is that there were four children, Caroline, Axel, Myrtle, and Lucy. Caroline and Axel ended up dying very young supposedly of acute colitis. Acute colitis shares a lot of symptoms with poisoning and both of their lives were insured. A 1900 census lists two dead children, two living (Myrtle and Lucy) and an adopted/foster daughter named Jennie Olsen. That same year Sorenson died on the same day that two life insurance policies overlapped. Two different doctors came up with two different causes of death. The first doctor said he showed signs of strychnine poisoning and their family doctor said it was an enlarged heart that led to heart failure. Belle admitted she had been giving him medicinal powders to help with his health but no autopsy was performed. Belle collected on both insurance policies the day after his death. Sorenson’s family submitted an inquest regarding his death claiming Belle killed him but no investigation was recorded. Belle used the money to buy a large farm in La Porte, Indiana.

Belle married Peter Gunness in April of 1902. Peter had two daughters at the time of their marriage, Jennie and Swanhild. Jennie died a week after they were married under mysterious circumstances while left alone with Belle. Peter would die in December of 1902. At first, Belle claimed he was reaching for a pair of slippers placed by the fire and clumsily knocked over a scalding vat onto himself. Then later she said he clumsily knocked part of a sausage grinder off of a shelf which fell on his head. Community suspicion was raised immediately, how could a successful hog farmer and butcher suddenly be so careless and clumsy? Eventually there was enough suspicion for an autopsy to be performed and his death was declared a murder. Belle was put on trial but was somehow found innocent of any wrong-doing. During the trial she was pregnant and in May 1903 gave birth to a son, Phillip. A year after Peter’s death his brother came and removed Swanhild from Belle’s care.

From 1903 to 1906, Belle ran the farm by herself along with Jennie Olsen and her remaining children. In 1906, Jennie Olsen disappeared from the farm. Belle told several neighbors she had moved to California to attend a Lutheran College and she told several others it was a finishing school for girls. Sometime in 1907 Belle hires on Ray Lamphere as a farm hand and around that same time her personal ad hit news stands. She advertised herself as a widow with a large farm looking for a gentleman to join fortunes with and required a personal visit for consideration. It was then that men would come to the farm and were never seen again.

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John Moe was the first bachelor reported by neighbors to visit the farm. He was from Elbow Lake, Minnesota and Belle introduced him to neighbors as her cousin. He brought $1,000 which he reportedly used to pay off Belle’s mortgage. John would disappear a week later. The next gentlemen to arrive on the farm was George Anderson from Tarkis, Missouri. Belle made him dinner and while they ate she brought up her mortgage and asked if he would be willing to pay it off for her. He agreed, but only after they were married. That night he awoke to Belle standing over his bed with murder in her eyes. He screamed at her and she fled without saying a word. He quickly followed, leaving the farm and all of his possessions behind. He never went back for his things and never had contact with Belle again. It was also around this time that Belle began ordering large trunks to be delivered to her farm. She started sticking close to home, kept her curtains closed, and was seen digging around the hog pen.

Ole B. Bubsberg would be the next caller. He was a widower from Wisconsin and brought several thousand dollars with him. Belle and Bubsberg were seen at the La Porte bank soon after his arrival where he mortgaged his farm in Wisconsin. He had two sons who didn’t know where there father had gone until finding his correspondence to Belle. They immediately wrote her and she wrote back saying she had never seen their father. Several more men would come to the Gunness farm and disappear throughout 1907. Andrew Helgelien was among the last and came from Aberdeen, South Dakota. He brought with him a check for $2,900 which they were seen together depositing together in a La Porte bank. He disappeared from the farm a few days later. A letter Belle wrote to him was found at his farm in South Dakota which led to suspicion from his brother. Lon Townsend and an Arkansas man were both supposed to visit the farm but put their visits off and another man, Bert Albert, was set to marry Belle but didn’t have enough money to his name and her interest fell through.

In 1908, Belle began to have problem with her hired man, Ray Lamphere. He loved her and would do anything for her but became increasingly jealous of the other men. She fired him in February of 1908 and Belle’s world began to crumble. Ray didn’t want to leave Belle so she tried everything to get him not only to leave her alone but not speak about what was happening to all of the men. She first tried to have him declared insane but it didn’t work out. She then had him arrested for trespassing but it didn’t hold. Ray then made the mistake of making comments about Andrew Helgelien which managed to get back to his brother, Asle, who was still looking for him. He wrote to Belle and she wrote back saying he had left the farm and maybe went back to Norway to visit family there. In her increasing concern regarding Ray, Belle hatched a plan. She paid a visit to her lawyer and told him Ray threatened to kill her and burn her house down. She wanted to make out a will to leave everything to her children in case something happened to her. Belle then went to the bank, withdrew the money from all of her accounts, and paid off the rest of her mortgage. She never took her concerns regarding Ray’s murderous threats to the police. All of this happened within weeks.

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At the end of February 1908, Belle’s new farm hand, Joe Maxson, awoke to the home engulfed in flames. He jumped from the second story and ran to town for the fire department. In the meantime the home burns completely and four bodies are found inside. The first three are confirmed as the body of Belle’s children, the fourth was an older female but was missing it’s head. The sheriff had heard from Belle’s lawyer her concerns regarding Ray and had him arrested the same day. He didn’t help his cause by asking the sheriff if Belle and the children got out alright before the sheriff could tell him why he was being arrested. There was also a witness who put Ray at the farm. A young boy witnessed Ray running away from the blaze, when Ray saw the boy he threatened to kill him if he said anything. Almost immediately neighbors and friends all said the body was not Belle’s, it was too small. The body found in the wreckage was only 5’1″ and about 150 pounds, Belle was much larger than that. They took measurements from the body which was still intact and compared them to the measurements from local businesses where Belle bought clothes. They didn’t match and deemed the body could not have been Belle’s. Concrete evidence was still needed, so a local retired miner was hired to build a sluice and search the wreckage for the missing head. In May 1908, a piece of bridgework was found containing teeth with roots still attached along with porcelain and golden crowns. The local dentist was brought in and confirmed he had performed that work on Belle. The coroner then officially concluded that the body was indeed Belle’s.

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Soon after the fire, Asle Helgelin arrived in La Porte and filed a report regarding his missing brother and her connection to Belle. Joe Maxson, the farm hand, told the sheriff how Belle would have him carry dirt to even out large depressions in the soil around the hog pen. Belle told him that they were filled with rubbish. The sheriff decided to look into and took a digging crew back out to Belle’s farm. It was then that they discovered Belle’s disturbing deeds.

Jennie Olsen, the adopted daughter who disappeared in 1906 and was supposed to be at finishing school was found first. She was followed by two small unidentified children. Eventually the bodies of Andrew Helgelien, Ole B. Bubsburg, Thomas Lindboe (left Chicago 3 years prior to work for Belle), Henry Gurholdt (left Wisconsin to marry Belle with $1,500), Olaf Svenhurd from Chicago, John Moe, and Olaf Lindbloom were all found and identified. They found Helgelien’s coat and Moe’s watch in Ray’s possession. An approximate number of bodies found is hard to determine due to the way the bodies were dug up but 12 bodies were confirmed. After the discovery, there were 26 other possible victims reported missing under the same circumstances and 5 unnamed victims. All of these possible victims are listed on her Wikipedia page, link below.

 

 

Ray Lamphere would be tried for arson and the murder of Belle Gunness and her family. Soon the dental evidence that was used to confirm Belle’s body was called into question. First if the dental work was in the home when it was ablaze it would not have survived. A demonstration was given to the court showing the teeth popping like popcorn and everything else melting away. Second Joe Maxson and another man testified that they saw the old miner plant the dentures. Ray would be found guilty of arson, acquitted of murder, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He would die a year later of tuberculosis.

In 1910, Reverend Schell and a fellow inmate, Harry Meyers, came forward and told the public what Ray had confessed to them before he died. He revealed all of Belle’s crimes and stated she was still alive. He never murdered anyone himself but would help Belle bury the bodies. He said she would make her suitors comfortable, cook for them, then drug their coffee. While they were aloof, she would split their heads with a meat chopper. Other times she would wait for them to go to bed, chloroform them in their sleep, and carry them to the basement where she would dissect their bodies. He also said she would sometimes poison their dinners with strychnine. After she would dissect the bodies, something he said she was an expert at after learning how to break down pigs, she would dispose of the body in one of three way. The first was simply burying them, the second involved a scalding vat and quicklime, and the third, if she was in hurry, was to just feed them to the hogs. He had helped Belle fake her death and burn the home. Belle lured the headless woman from Chicago under the pretense of becoming a housekeeper. She then drugged her, smashed her head in, decapitated and weighted the head down before throwing into the swamp around the farm. She then dressed the woman in her clothes and removed her false teeth to be found later. The children were chloroformed in their sleep and smothered by their mother. Ray helped her torch the house and they were supposed to meet up down the road. There are two accounts of what happened next. Ray claimed she never met him and abandoned him to his fate and the other claims he drove her to Stillwell and put her on a train.

According to Ray, she killed 42 people total and had accumulated $250,000 (today this would be more than 6 million dollars) through her schemes. Because she withdrew all of her money before the fire and settled all of her affairs it would appear she was planning to flee. After Ray’s confession came to light people began reporting sightings of the large Norwegian woman every where. The first was supposedly just three days after the fire. A delivery boy claimed to have seen her in the kitchen of Elizabeth Smith’s home, one of Belle’s friends. Reports came in from Chicago, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. For years, the La Porte sheriff would receive at least two calls a month regarding Belle Gunness. The most substantiated claim came in 1931. A woman named Esther Carlson was arrested for poisoning August Lindstrom for his money. Many neighbors and close friends all claimed the picture of Ether Carlson looked exactly like Gunness. Before any investigation could be carried out Esther died while awaiting trial.

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Belle Gunnes Photo Credits go to Flickriver.com and the La Porte County Historical Society.

Sources:

Belle Gunness Wikipedia

Belle Gunness: Indiana Serial Killer

Belle Gunness – Murderer

A Nightmare at Murder Farm (this is actually a really cool blog if you are into bizarre, creepy, and strange history stories!)

The Big Move, an Ikea Adventure, and an Injured Opie.

We signed the lease for our new apartment last Monday and started moving things over on Wednesday (we didn’t get the keys until then). I worked extra hours the week before to make up for all of the hours I would miss moving and left early on Wednesday to help Tyler. By the time I got off, which was only noon, Tyler had already moved a bunch of stuff and didn’t even really need my help. We had already packed a bunch of smaller things and he moved them over while I was at work. I unpacked a few things at the new apartment then we went back to the old apartment to pack even more. It is crazy how much stuff we were able to fit in that little apartment! Thursday was the day we rented a U-Haul to move all of the big stuff and to make the trip to the new Ikea. On Thursday we woke up ready to move and of course ran into a huge roadblock.

We had planned to move a few more little things and then go pick up the U-Haul, possibly get donuts, and make the pilgrimage to Ikea. The first snafu came when Tyler thought our reservation was at 9 when it was really at 8. So we didn’t get to move little things first and rushed over to U-Haul to get the van. Tyler goes in and I wait outside in the car just in case there was a problem and we were lucky I did because there was a huge problem. U-Haul was experiencing a nationwide service outage. Their system was completely down including their website. We were told it would be up at 8:45 so we waited at U-Haul for 45 minutes only to be told it would be up at 9. We decided to go back to the apartment to pack more and move a couple of small loads over. We consistently checked the website and their Twitter for updates but everything was still down. At 11:30 we decided to go back to see if they could do an offline checkout process, we couldn’t even call them because their phones were down. By noon we had the U-Haul and were on our way to Ikea, but I never did get those donuts….

The new Ikea had opened on Wednesday and we had the crazy idea to go on Thursday. I mean we had the U-Haul so we might as well get some use out of it. We also needed new living room furniture. When I moved into our old apartment I went to Goodwill for my couch and love seat. They were already showing wear then and the last four years of daily use plus Percy’s teething had taken their toll. Tyler had the brilliant idea of taking the couches apart to fit them in the trash compactor rather then having them hauled away. They weren’t worth donating as Percy had chewed up the bottoms and a hole in the seat of one while the other was missing an entire back cushion. After we signed the lease on Monday, he want to work sawing them apart and hauling them to the trash. So until we moved we were just hanging out in our dining room chairs. My anxiety was through the roof just with the move in general but the thought of dealing with the crowds at Ikea just made it that much worse.

If you’ve ever been to an Ikea, it is already overwhelming with how much there is to see and that on top of it only being opened the day before was a recipe for crazy. We get to Ikea and are directed through the parking lot by cops and other traffic directors but I quickly found that my worries were unfounded. Yes it was crazy, but I think the fact that we didn’t end up making it there until noon was a good thing. The morning rush had clearly just ended, we got a close parking space, and the crowd had thinned out. The showroom sections were way worse than the actual product sections. Everyone wanted to get into rooms and see furniture, a lot of people were just browsing and not actually shopping, and a lot of people didn’t really know how Ikea worked. For example, Ikea sets up sample rooms and product areas in the beginning i.e. the showroom, and you have to walk through all of that to get to the marketplace where all of the knick-knacks are actually kept in bulk and to the warehouse where you pull furniture pieces. People were tending to just grab things they liked from the sample rooms, which usually aren’t marked for sale, and walking off with them. We were able to get through most of the main sections quickly thanks to our trip to the Cincinnati Ikea a couple of months ago. We knew what we wanted, we had a list, and we prioritized the main things we needed. We ended up getting a new couch, an armchair, a side table, a lamp, a small trash can, and a couple of little things like silverware holders and new kitchen utensils. Tyler is planning to go back today to get even more stuff, I think we’ve gone Ikea crazy.

After the U-Haul problem was fixed and the trip to Ikea completed, moving the big stuff went really quick. We were able to make it only two loads but most of the stuff made it in the first load. We spent the rest of the night unpacking important things and Tyler got to work putting together the new couch, which he messed up and we didn’t realize it until the armrests weren’t fitting on right. I honestly don’t think it would be a normal Ikea adventure though if something wasn’t put together wrong at least once in the process. Friday we went grocery shopping, moved a few more small things, put the living room together, and just relaxed.

We made our first meal in the new apartment which was this great Bacon Asparagus Pasta. It is one of our go to meals and is always delicious. I deviate a little of course, like I usually do. I add half of a sliced white onion at the same time as the asparagus. After I remove that I add a minced clove of garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the wine (usually one cup total). I also add a tiny bit of salt and a good amount of pepper at the same time as the Parmesan. Be careful with the salt though because bacon and Parmesan already have a good amount.

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Saturday was the last full day we had the old apartment so we went back early to finish loading up the random things still left and clean. Percy sheds a lot, like clumps of fur. Thankfully, his breed (Shiba Inu) usually only sheds twice a year, with very low shedding in between. Technically its called molting/blowing because it is mostly the undercoat coming out. So you can imagine there were areas we couldn’t reach normally that needed TLC after we moved everything out. Tyler did all of that work while I scrubbed down the kitchen and the bathroom. By 1 we were done, packed up, and had the keys turned in. It was kind of sad leaving that apartment behind and all of the memories we made there but we are ready for our new adventure.

Opie and Percy are adjusting surprisingly well. I was a little worried about moving them both to a new place, especially Percy. He is afraid of everything and a new place would seem absolutely terrifying to him. He has been a bit more jumpy, a lot more cuddly, and does not like it when the folks upstairs move to loudly. Other than that he loves the view and explored the whole apartment right away. Opie is just Opie. The week before we moved we had to take him to the vet because he couldn’t bend his head down without yelping or crying. It turns out the little turd slipped a disc in his neck. We got some medicine, elevated all of the food and water bowls, and he was put on strict confinement for a week. The day we moved we took him off the meds to see if he was fine, per the vets instructions, and I was so worried all of the excitement would cause him to slip it again. So far he seems better. We kept him in the kennel for a few days after we stopped the meds just to be careful but I think he will be alright. The thing with this type of injury is that it can, and most likely will, happen again. I always thought mutts were supposed to have less problems than purebred dogs but Opie must be an exception.

We have been slowly unpacking, arranging and rearranging furniture, and getting use to living in a new environment. It’s pretty easy to get use to with this amazing view…….

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