Halloween, costumes, and hugs | November 2, 2022

I’ve written about Halloween costumes every single year I’ve had North Dakota Nice because I love costumes.  Lerve them.  Looove them.  One of my favorite costumes was a Rainbow Brite get-up that I wore for Halloween in 1985 AND 1986 because it had striped tights and a plastic smock and was rad.  Nowadays, if you were to dress up as Rainbow Brite you’d get a blonde wig and a giant hairbow, but the 80s were pretty literal so my costume instead came with a full-head mask where the eyes were punched, not in the face, but in the hair – because nothing says “Gonna take you for a ride” like four eyeballs:

Another favorite costume was in college.  Two of my roommates were English majors and I was an English minor, and we dressed up as a Prepositional Phrase.  Specifically, we were the phrase, “Against the wall,” with each of us wearing a t-shirt with one of the words (I was the “The”).  Exactly zero of our fellow Halloween partygoers got it; and when we educated them on our cleverness, most people nodded slowly and said, “Huh.” before wandering off.  (The following year I was a Sexy Pirate and everyone seemed to have a handle on that.)

The only thing I like more than costumes are hugs.  My dream job would be to be a Disney Princess, because dressing up like Sleeping Beauty and hugging kids all day sounds like a 1985 Rainbow Brite costume (i.e. rad).  However, it turns out you need to be “tall” and “beautiful” and not “short” and “Jewish-y-looking” to be a Disney Sleeping Beauty, so I guess I’ll just have to bide my time until Feivel Mousekewitz from An American Tail really takes off (what kid DOESN’T see themselves in a depressing story about escaping Russian pogroms?!).

Women (and maybe men, too, what do I know) love to talk about our Love Languages – Compliments, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Buying Candles And Then Never Burning Them.  My language is, obviously, Physical Touch.  I love hugs.  Lerve them.  I love strong hugs, wimpy hugs, one-arm side hugs, whatever.  If I had my way, I’d hug every one of my coworkers before and after work (and then I’d hug H.R. after they inevitably brought me in for a “Keep your hands to yourself” chat).  My little sister is my gold standard for hugging.  Her hugs are warm and smushy and smell great.  She could give me a birthday coupon for a ten-minute hug AND I WOULD USE IT, I REALLY WOULD.

Kyle’s family’s Love Language is No Touching – so much so that when we first got engaged and I was in the process of meeting his extended family my sister-in-law would go in ahead of me and warn them, “Hey, everyone, Amanda’s a hugger,” so they could steel themselves for what was to come.  However, for a family that doesn’t like touching they are incredibly good huggers, and I know because after seventeen years together they will initiate my hugs just to get them out of the way.

North Dakota is also not big on touching.  North Dakotans don’t even really like touching themselves (gross, not like that).  For example, I have been to many, many movies in the theater (humble brag).  In every non-North Dakota U.S. state where I’ve seen a movie, someone has applauded at some point during the film.  I have never, ever been to a movie in North Dakota where someone in the audience has felt compelled to clap.  This does not mean that North Dakotans don’t like the movies.  Au contraire.  It means they show their affection in other respectfully-distanced ways, such as wearing a humorous t-shirt with the movie’s tagline on it or telling their friends of their partiality towards the cinema.

Like my sister, North Dakotans are warm (and smell great); and, of course, they WILL hug; it’s just not their first instinct when engaging with someone.  “Well, everyone is like that, Amanda,” you may be thinking.  Listen, I lived in Boston for six years, my sister lived in Los Angeles for a decade, and our mom’s entire side of the family is on the East Coast – and I can tell you with confidence that East and West Coasters not only hug, but kiss one another like they are trying to win a numbers competition.  In more than one instance I have been introduced to an East or West Coaster who kissed me on the LIPS, and I honestly and truly can’t imagine what would happen if I did that to a North Dakotan (wait, yes I can – they would kiss me back and then avoid me for the rest of my life).

While the Kosiors are family and can’t avoid my hugs, I try not to put my fellow North Dakotans in a similarly awkward position.  However, I still need my daily touches, so I’ve taken to patting people on their back and/or arm as a consolation: “I’m so happy to see you [pat pat].”  “How have you been [pat pat]?”  “You look great [pat pat pat]!”  I’ve also found that if I pat people enough, over time they will hug me when they see me…so, double win.

Last night was the most beautiful Halloween in memory: sixty degrees, nary a whisper of wind, and a sun that shone all the way to sunset.  Kyle and I took our seven-year-old trick-or-treating (Eleven went with his friends); and Seven, who normally likes hugs about as much as his father, was so taken in by the weather, the candy, the decorations, and the spookiness that he actually stopped other children for a hug (or a pat) at various intervals throughout the evening.  I sneaked a couple from him since he was handing them out so willingly, and for a few brief seconds I was fulfilling my dream of being a Disney Princess – wearing my high school letterman jacket, but close enough.

The photo above is of me and my little anti-hugger.

I say this every year, but I am so touched by the fact that the entire Grand Forks comes together to make sure Halloween is a great time for all of our children.  Some of the neighborhoods must have received 2,000+ kids per house (I saw one news report that said 5,000 for a particular street), and they leaned into it with big-time decorations, food trucks, and teenagers tapped to play crossing guards on the busier streets.

Here is my favorite story from last night: We were walking through a sea, A SEA, of people when Seven screeched, “LOOK, IT’S PATRICK STAR!”  Lumbering straight at us was a 7’ tall blow-up costume of Patrick Star from the TV show Spongebob Squarepants.  “HI, PATRICK!” Seven shouted through the crowd.  “Patrick” walked a few steps past us, turned around, and from somewhere around his navel the voice of an elementary-aged boy yelled, “S’UP!”  He then turned around and disappeared into the throngs.  (Unrelated: from this point forward, I shall only respond to greetings with “S’UP!”)

This week’s news has Meatloaf and potato salad.  Read on.


That’s it, I’m calling it – this is the Nice Story of the Year: two kids in Minot realized a candy bucket was empty, so they refilled it from their own stash. (KFYR TV)

Twins Eddie and Vinny Opp are Halloween-famous around Hillsboro for their amazing costumes. (Hillsboro Banner)

Dickinson’s Eric Sticka is on the road to recovery with the support of the Sticka Strong community. (KFYR TV)

Fargo’s Big Boy, Meatloaf, Cinnamon, and Buggy are Internet celebrities. (Fargo Forum)

Speaking of famous, Eva Schlepp’s potato salad is the talk of the town in Ashley. (KFYR TV)

Bismarck teacher Robert Fuller competed – and took Silver! – at the International Powerlifting Federation’s World Masters Men’s Classic Championships. (KFYR TV)

Dickinson artist Linda Little has sculpted a bronze statue of Medora de Vallombrosa – the namesake of Medora – and has installed it at the Von Hoffman house in Medora. (Dickinson Press)

A two-hundred-year-old tree needed to come down due to Dutch Elm Disease, and so Bismarck carpenter Michael Knodel has spent over 1,000 hours creating “something special for the city of Lisbon.” (KFYR TV)


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The Haunted House | October 19, 2022

As you’ll see in the news, the Williston Herald is running a kid’s ghost story contest.  When I read it, I thought, “I want to write a ghost story.”  The last time I wrote a short fiction piece so many of you lovely people sent me the nicest notes and I’m like a gremlin when it comes compliments (and food) – feed me and I won’t leave you alone.  So, in the spirit of Halloween and contests that I’m too old to do, here you go.


The Haunted House

by Amanda Kosior

“Don’t go over to that house, Coop, you hear me?”  Natalie Schanz’s sunshine smile had darkened to a thin grey line.  Around her feet, the autumn leaves swirled.  “Pretend like it’s not even there.”

Coop looked at his mother, who had only moments before been laughing with her childhood friend.  Her mother gave him the look that said that he shouldn’t even think about it.

“Don’t even think about it,” Laura Rooney said.

Natalie’s son, Sawyer, shifted his weight to the other side of his bicycle, and stared at the ground.

Coop was pretty sure he was going to like his new house.  He was pretty sure he was going to like his new school, and his new neighborhood, and his new town, and North Dakota in general, because they were all like his house, school, neighborhood, and town in Wisconsin – only now they were closer to his grandma and grandpa.  He was pretty sure he was going to like living across the street from Sawyer, because Sawyer was also eleven, played hockey, and rode a bike.  But he wasn’t sure what to think about that old, rundown house at the end of the block.

“Sawyer will show you all the good places you can go; won’t you, buddy?”  Natalie’s smile returned.

Sawyer nodded, his eyes still downward.

“I see they still haven’t done anything about The Olson’s,” Laura had said to Natalie five minutes earlier when she had brought over a meat tray and Sawyer to welcome the Rooneys to the neighborhood.  Laura had tilted her head to the house – which had probably been bright purple once, although now the few flecks of remaining paint were more of a dusty violet – and, as she did, the rickety screen door flapped open and closed a few times.

“They put up a ‘No Trespassing’ sign a couple of times, but you know how it is,” Natalie had said.  “Ardie Jean set up that trust to pay the taxes and keep the lawn and sidewalk clear, so it just goes on and on.”

“Still?”  Laura had scoffed.  “She died, what, fifty years ago?”

“At least.  My dad said it was haunted when he was a kid.”

That’s when Laura and Natalie had remembered that their boys were standing there.

“Don’t go over to that house, Coop, you hear me?”  Natalie said.

Later that afternoon, after the moving van left and the pizza man called, Cooper took his dog, Gunner, for a walk.  He thought about going left, towards the park, because that’s where his mom told him to go; but instead he casually strolled to the right, in the direction of The Olson’s.

Earlier, the street had been busier with cars and neighbors but now it was just Coop, Gunner, and the wind – which pushed him along until he found himself in front of the place he had been warned not to think about.  He studied it.

Cooper had assumed all haunted houses would look like something a person would find at Disney World, with a big spire and a gargoyle or two.  This was just a regular old falling-down house.  The porch tilted so low forward that the weeds had started to wind up the siding and most of the boards covering the windows were long gone.  But still, slap a coat of paint on it and it wouldn’t be too far off from their old home in Wisconsin.  In fact, he was pretty sure his mom had that exact same planter by the door, except this one had pieces of broken glass where the flowers should have been.

Gunner pulled on the leash, bored with the normalcy of this forbidden abode.

“Bye, house,” Cooper said.

The front porch light came on.

Cooper stared at the light.

“Must be a prank,” he said to Gunner, trying not to be scared.  He also tried not to be frozen in place.  Neither seemed to work.

“Stay away from this place, buddy,” a voice called out behind him, and Cooper jumped out of his skin.  He flipped around, grateful that he was at least able to move again.

The voice belonged to a mom pushing a baby in a stroller.  The baby chewed on the ear of a stuffed elephant, holding it out to Cooper as they approached.

“It’s probably about suppertime, isn’t it?”  She asked, patting him gently on the shoulder.  “You’d better get home.”

He nodded, and flipped Gunner’s leash.  She stood in front of The Olson’s until he turned into his driveway.

Cooper didn’t sleep a wink all night.  He got up twice to peek out the window.  In the darkness, The Olson’s front porch light burned brightly.

The light was still on the next morning when Sawyer rode up on his bike.  Together, the boys turned away, towards the park.

They rode until they ran out of runway at the baseball field, where they joined a game of 500 already in progress.  They played until lunchtime, when they, with a few new friends in tow, rode back to Sawyer’s for hot dogs.  For the rest of the day, they rode and played and played and rode until one of the kids – a boy named Jack – said, “I’m hungry,” and, without discussion, all of the boys turned down the road one block behind Cooper’s street.

They parked their bikes behind some tall bushes, and army-crawled to the back door of The Olson’s House.  The back porch light was also on.

“What are we doing?”  Coop whispered.  His voice shook, and he played it off with a cough.

“Shh,” Sawyer said.

A moment passed, and then the back door to the house creaked open.

“C’mon,” Jack whispered, and Sawyer grabbed Cooper’s arm, dragging him forward.  The boys ran up the stairs, through the door, and into the kitchen.

The condition of the kitchen mirrored the outside of the house.  Cobwebs hung off of every surface, from the dented ice box to the shredded polka-dotted window curtains.  Inside the doorless oven, a squirrel chirped.

“Hello, Mrs. Olson,” Jack called.

Once again, Cooper found himself unable to move.  He wished he had listened to Natalie.  He wished he had listened to that lady with the baby.  He wished they hadn’t moved out of Wisconsin.  He wished and wished, but those wishes still didn’t stop the fact that a real-life ghost was floating right up to him.

Except, Cooper realized, his legs loosening up a bit – like the house, this ghost wasn’t very…ghosty.  She was see-through, to be sure; but more of a pinky see-through.  She wore an apron embroidered with hearts and had tied a little bow on the top of her fluffy hair.  Cooper sniffed, and realized the air smelled like chocolate chip cookies, which were his favorite.

“Hello, boys!”  The ghost said in a twinkly, twittery voice.  “Sit down, sit down, I baked too many cookies!”

The boys sat down at the table, which Cooper noticed was not only completely devoid of dust, but polished clean and covered in a lace tablecloth.  Mrs. Olson puttered about the countertop, and when she turned around she was holding a platter of actual, non-transparent chocolate chip cookies. 

She held the platter out to Cooper.  He took one and bit into it.  It was warm and gooey and perfect.

“Now who are you?”  She said, as she pushed the platter to Cooper to make him take a second.

He told her his name the best he could with a mouthful of cookie.

“Cooper Rooney,” she said, tapping her finger on her lips to indicate she was thinking.  “Cooper Rooney.  I don’t know any Rooneys.  Are you from around here?”

“No,” Cooper said.  “But my mom’s family is.  My grandma’s name is Ginny Thompson.”

“Ginny Thompson!”  Mrs. Cooper threw her head back and laughed.  “So you’re Laura’s boy?”

Cooper nodded.

“She loved chocolate chip cookies, too,” Mrs. Olson said, handing him another one before giving the other boys three cookies of their own.

“You can’t tell your mom about this,” Jack said, shoveling two cookies in simultaneously.  And then, in his best mom voice, “Too much sugar.”

Sawyer nodded.  “Always ruinin’ supper,” he sang, and the boys laughed.


Okay, in all honesty, I don’t know where the photo above came from. I didn’t take it. I had it on my phone picture roll with all sorts of other photos that I downloaded that I thought were funny, like this one:

I was going to get a stock photo of a spooky house and saw these skeletons and thought they were much better. If it’s your photo or your skeletons and you want me to take it down, please message me (and I’m sorry).

Obviously, this week’s news has a writing contest. It also has sauerkraut and a perfect game. Read on.


Know a middle schooler or high schooler who loves to write ghost stories?  The Williston Herald is hosting a spooky writing contest! (Williston Herald)

Medora and Garrison have been named two of the coziest towns in America by MyDatingAdviser.com. (KX Net)

Once again, Wishek’s Sauerkraut Days are a stinky, delicious success. (KFYR TV)

Speaking of Wishek, here is a story of two random acts of kindness by teenagers Dominic Sayler and Gavin Wolf. (KFYR TV)

This is the non-obituary obituary for Arthur’s Joanne Iwen. (Fargo Forum)

Congratulations to eleven-year-old Tatum Lee of Bismarck, who bowled a perfect 300 game! (KFYR TV)

For the 42nd year, Williston is Tree City USA. (Williston Herald)


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A whole to-do about zucchini | October 5, 2022

This is one of the best times of the year, isn’t it? The leaves are beginning to change, the air is crisp but warm, everything is covered in pumpkins and apples (the two cutest fruit), and everyone looks great in autumn sunshine. Sometimes I’ll walk out into this perfection and think, please make this one day last for three weeks. Like, let it be this exact Monday for three weeks, and then tomorrow it will be that exact Tuesday for another three weeks, and so on until January, when we can have five normal-length days of snow and then roll right into spring. I’d really like that.

Speaking of fall, North Dakota is thick into harvest.  When we moved to town last year, Kyle brought two parts of the country with him: A spot for Kyle the kids to pee outside (SO GREAT LOVE THIS SO MUCH NEXT I’M GONNA STICK A TOILET IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LIVING ROOM SO EVERYONE CAN GO WHENEVER THEY PLEASE), and a very large garden plot.  Kyle’s garden plot at the new house is almost the same square footage as the one in the country – which was size-appropriate when we had six acres but a little aggressive in town.  That’s okay, though, because I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a point in history when a farmer has looked at their crop and thought, “You know, this is just too much food.”

Kyle spent a couple of weeks in the early spring tilling up the corners of the yard and building garden boxes, and then one solid day planting all sorts of vegetable and fruit seeds in neat rows.  That night, he took me outside to show off his hard work.

“Here are the sunflowers,” he pointed proudly.  “And here are the beets.  And here are the cucumbers.  And here, and here, and over there, and over there are the zucchini.”

“Oh, boy,” I said.  “That’s a lot of zucchini.  How much zucchini did you plant?”

“The whole packet,” he told me.

“Ohhh, boyyy,” I said in that high-octave tone a person uses when their friend tells you they are going to get their face tattooed to look like Frosty the Snowman.  “Remember the last time we planted the whole packet of zucchini?”

The last time we planted a whole packet of zucchini, we ended up with a lot of zucchini.  Here’s the thing about zucchini: it’s not universally beloved.  It’s the broccoli of the squash family.  Actually, it’s the squash of the squash family because most of society can only eat so much squash before it’s like, “Hey, let’s stick this on the front step for decoration.”  Kyle and I had the university president out to the (country) house and forced him to take a trunkful of zucchini home with him and then he announced he was leaving UND a year later, which was not a coincidence.  Even the food pantry couldn’t give it all away.

For the past month, we have been awash in zucchini.  Awash.  Then, this past weekend, Kyle announced that it was time for Kosior Harvest; he was pulling the garden.

“Head’s up,” he said.  “There are quite a few zucchini still out there.”

“How many?”  I asked.

Nine.  There were nine giant zucchini, each roughly the size of three normal-sized ones.  No matter, I told Kyle, I had a plan.  I would turn them all into zucchini bread.  While zucchini is not a fan favorite, everyone loves zucchini bread – especially our children (who won’t eat it if they think it’s zucchini bread but will fight one another for every piece if we say it’s banana bread; so, if you ever come to our house and we serve you banana bread, there’s a 99% chance it’s zucchini bread).  We would be awash in zucchini bread.  Awash.

Except here’s the thing – I don’t do well with long projects.  For example, I am a great taper but a terrible house painter because I will tape the trim on a room and think, “Meh, I’m done.”  I went through a knitting phase where I completed fifty scarves and still have an unfinished blanket – my very first project – shoved in the shame corner of my office closet because I got a couple of feet in and went, “Meh, I’m done.”

On Sunday morning, I woke up and announced to the world that I would spend the day making loaves of zucchini banana bread.  My seven-year-old offered to help, and so we got out all of the stuff necessary to shred zucchini: a cutting board and knife (to cut the zucchini), the Cuisinart (to shred the zucchini), the strainer (to strain some of the water out of the zucchini), and two bowls (one for the straining zucchini, and one for the strained zucchini).

Our process was this: Seven would go out and get one zucchini.  I’d peel it and chop it into Cuisinart-sized chunks, and then Seven would run the shredder.  While I was emptying the Cuisinart into the strainer, Seven would go outside for the next zucchini.  We did this four times before Seven, true to his birthright, said, “Meh, I’m done,” and wandered off to go play.  Ha ha, that scamp, I laughed to myself as I finished off the other five zucchini.  I cleaned up the kitchen, washed all of the equipment, took out the garbage, set out the ingredients and loaf pans for zucchini bread, and thought, “Meh, I’m done.”

I spent the next half-hour Googling, “How long can shredded zucchini last in the fridge” (one week), and “How to use up twenty pounds of shredded zucchini” (zucchini bread) before giving in and making one double batch (four loaves).  While those four loaves were baking, I packaged up all of the rest of the zucchini into ziplock bags and put them in the deep freeze “to use later.”

“You can substitute shredded zucchini for oil in most recipes,” I told Kyle as he hauled out 900 bags of shredded zucchini.

“Oh, boy,” Kyle said.  “Maybe I’ll plant even more next year.”

“Ohhh, boyyy,” I said.

The photo above is of me and my zucchini bread.  I don’t know why I’m smiling like a nutjob; maybe because I had just spent five precious weekend hours dealing with zucchini.

This week’s news has baseball players, tree planters, and axe throwers. Read on.


Ballers in Devils Lake raised money (with a baseball tournament, in case my nickname wasn’t obvious) for families in need of financial assistance. (Devils Lake Journal)

The city of Bismarck, with the help of Boy Scout Troop 6, will be planting 150 trees in celebration of the city’s 150th birthday. (KX Net)

In close-enough-to-North-Dakota Nice news, Native Artist Laura Youngbird has installed a new piece called “Mishipechu” in Breckenridge. (Wahpeton Daily News)

Competitors from 23 states were AXE-ing (get it) to win the first “Far Thro” axe throwing tournament in Fargo. (Valley News Live)

Mandan’s Ty Breuer is headed back to Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo. (KFYR TV)

Grand Forks’ “Way Cooler Than You Think!” website is an international award winner. (Grand Forks Herald)


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