Friday, August 31, 2012

A Lot of Gall...

Natureman will do anything to get me out of the house and onto a walk with him. It's not that I don't like walks as a rule but last week I had sprained my foot. I have no clue how I did it really, not that that matters but the fact remains that I had spent the past 4 days not really wanting to put all my weight on that one foot.

Our road/ driveway as you may remember is a far cry from being paved, just a dirt road (translation = rocky), so I wasn't real excited about exacerbating the pain/ re-injurying it. But Natureman can be real insistent or as his youngest put it this week on a FaceBook comment, " What Natureman wants, Natureman gets. "I saw something really that looks like an orchid but I don't recognize it." Now that did pique my interest and he promised it was not far, down by the first mudslide. (We have new land markers since that first 500 yr flood.)

So I put on sturdy walking shoes and off we went down the road. Being late August our road is flanked now by head high goldenrod which is actually quite pretty with its yellow blooms.
But I was actually beginning to doubt that he would really find the place where he had seen the unknown bloom amidst all that goldenrod. See I wasn't kidding.

But sure enough as we approached the designated mudslide area, we found the one white blooming plant amidst the multitude of goldenrod. I was a bit disappointed because I was really looking forward to discovering a new plant and the process of plant ID.

"Oh that's Chelone," I declared, " Turtlehead. The bloom looks like a turtle's head, it's a native plant."(See that Master Gardener training really did pay off.) It is truly amazing what does turn up growing alongside the road as each year new plants appear and sometimes just as quickly disappear after being choked out.

We walked a tad farther and Natureman grabbed a stem of ragweed. "See this, do you know what this is?
It's a gall. (I knew that) It's where the deerfly lay their eggs and then the larvae feed on the plant all winter before hatching in the spring.? (In case you missed it, you should read my 'Bugged? You think You're Bugged?'June 12th blog entry sometime.)

Any how out comes a Natureman story that I had never heard before. You see in his younger days Natureman would cut off the galls, slice them open to extract the larvae in order to sell them to the fishermen as bait for a nickel no less since there were no worms at that time of year. Now we could say that took 'a lot of gall.' SORRY, I couldn't resist.

And so my friends, the hobble down the End of the Rainbow Valley road was certainly worth hearing this great new Natureman story. You just never know when a gem can be found along the path...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Whimsy in the Valley...

Some days one just has to step out of the box and do something totally different and treat yourself to some fun. Besides you just got to take a break from your daily routine and in my case canning all those tomatoes!
Sunday 12 women decided to spend part of their day doing just that, whimsical gourd art of all things with the 'Gourd Girl' herself, Terri Schmit(far right in the pic) You should Google her to see her gorgeous creations! Terri and I met a couple of years ago at the Driftless Art Fair in Soldier's Grove. (FYI The fair is being held Sept 15th-16th). Anyhow I couldn't believe a gourd could turn into such a piece of beauty. The faux finishes can look like leather, ceramic or even wood if you are a talented artist like Terri who also happens to have an endless supply of gourds. Why? She is married to a gourd farmer. In fact they grow about 7,000 gourds (15 different varieties) annually and are the largest supplier of dried gourds.

After expressing an interest in the process and the possibility of taking gourd classes nearby, Terri offered to travel across the state to hold a class if I got the other participants. Here is the first class of Valley Gourd artists. Were we happy campers or what? We buffed and polished,wove and sewed to embellish our gourd vessels. Every piece looked so different. I have heard that each gourd is displayed in a predominant locale in their new homes. We had so much fun that we decided to make it an annual event and hence the 'Whimsies' class.

This year those that participated in the Second Annual Gourd class created gourd "Whimsies."From 2 pieces of stained and finished gourd pieces, one which served as the head and the other, the torso, beads and wires were used to make appendages and create our own unique 'Whimsical' Person. And create whimsy we did... Take a look at our gourd people. They are each as individual as we are!

Creativity busted out even in choosing food the chip 'scoops' to be a bead holder. It was such a good idea that I used a scoop to collect the found beads on the floor after everybody left! Of course I had to add those beads to my creation and now my work has a piece of everybody's work.

I can't wait to hear what everybody names their work of art. Mine is called 'Chastity.' Note the chastity belt. Obviously it's the politically correct' protection' of some.

Maybe you'd like to join us next year for another gourd class right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley, just let me know so I will put you on the mailing list...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


All of you have probably noticed that it's tomato time. Your coworkers have started leaving their extra bounty in the break room. It's the usual end of August, EEGADS, what are we going to do with all these tomatoes? Here in the Valley the 'maters have already been canned as either stewed, soup/spaghetti sauce and so that means it's time for salsa. Put on some 'salsa' music and go for it... Because the only dancing today was happening in the kitchen.

I returned home from town to find Natureman at the sink quartering tomatoes. I was greeted with the fact that we couldn't wait any longer as the tomatoes needed to be picked so despite my sprained foot, it was 'canning time' again. Some recipes call for either skinning and deseeding the tomatoes...

Well, Natureman chose the recipe that called for neither and so I fished around scooping out skins after using one of my favorite kitchen tools, the electric hand blender which got a good workout as it also helped the cooking tomatoes on their way to salsa, Spanish for SAUCE.

As the tomatoes cooked down, cilantro committed hari kari in the cuisinart,the wooden bowl did its job holding the onions and peppers as they were chopped.

I have a confession to make re: last year's salsa. OK , it was my fault that we had sweet salsa as I was a bit heavy handed with the sugar. Well I am a 'Southerner' and can be 'sugary' sweet (Just kidding, keep reading)... WELL this year you could probably hear me getting hysterical in the next valley. Why, you may ask...

Natureman had chopped an entire bowl of habañero. The habañero chile is the hottest variety of chiles... AY chihuahua, my eyes were watering and I wasn't even near the bowl of chopped chiles.
Fortunately, Natureman had worn rubber gloves to work with the chiles while removing the seeds and chopping them but even 'one' could have had a grown man crying. Now what to do with those rubber gloves? I say chuck 'em. What's your vote? BTW this is how Natureman put them back in the drawer. I swear. OK back to the story...
Trust me these pretty yellow chiles are 'potent' and little did I know that the chiles were chopped in the same wooden bowl where the onions and sweet peppers were sitting waiting to be chopped. Oh my - I'm not kidding you, my nostril hairs were burning. I had to have a hissy fit in protest of the big chile chunks awaiting entrance into this batch of salsa as 'someone' was trying to tell me that it would be our best batch yet. If any habañero was jumping in, it had to be chopped smaller I insisted... Ah you gotta love the kitchen wars... What were we going to do with 20 some odd pints of inedible salsa? OK - Compromise: smaller pieces with the majority going into Natureman's very own 'separate' habañero salsa reserve. Trust me, this batch is still going to have a kick...

If you ask for quantities, they are basically an unknown as no matter what the flavor is while it simmers and melds the flavor changes after the canner(pressure cooker). We had started with 2 buckets full of tomatoes so using a recipe is more for ingredients and some guidance of quantity of spices rather than an exact science. Logic tells one if you multiplied by 5, it might be really excessive so it's one of those guessing games of which spices you like more. This year I added more cumin and garlic, less sugar, less cider vinegar to not be too watery and then less salt. I omitted the oregano entirely so we shall see what we think. Anyhow, adjustments can always be made at the time of serving. Corn can be added after opening if we want more of a corn salsa. Hey and if extra heat is needed by adding Natureman's reserve. BTW If you want fresh habañero, let me know.

Now we shall see if this year's 21 pints of salsa will be the End of the Rainbow Valley's best ever...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Texas Caviar

You know I had totally forgotten that one of the friends who started me on blogging about my new life in the End of the Rainbow Valley said that I should also include recipes. Oh yeah, it was a great suggestion and I have neglected to do so. So here goes...

First and foremost, I have to admit that I 'really' do try to follow a recipe exactly the first time but I am guilty of substitutions mainly due to what's on hand. You see when you live out in the country, you don't just jump in the car to run to the store. I guess that's the idea of the pantry and those canned/frozen goods.

I admit that very rarely does anything I make ever taste exactly the same the next time I make it. I can't blame it on creative genius either... LOL.

OK so for all those that want an appetizer that always gets polished off, THIS is a favorite here in the End of the Rainbow Valley. In our Jazzercise class we all donated recipes to give the new brides and this was one of those appetizer recipes. The corn, cilantro, tomatoes, chilies all come from our garden but the secret is the marinade and I confess that I have cut back on the sugar when I make it now. AND you may also notice it says pimentos which I rarely have on hand but seem to have an abundance of either tomatoes or pepper. ANYHOW - here's the original recipe passed on to me by my Jazzerbuddy Mary.

Thanks Mary for making me and others TEXAS CAVIAR addicts!


1 can 15 oz black eyed peas (rinse/drain)
1 can 15 oz black beans (rinse/drain)
1 can 15 oz pinto or red beans (rinse/drain)
2 T diced pimentos
1-2 cans 11 oz shoepeg corn (drained)
1 small sweet onion (diced)
1-3 jalapeno peppers (diced/no seeds)
fresh cilantro to taste (1/4-1/2 c/chopped)

Combine all in a bowl. Add marinade.


1 t salt
½ t pepper
1T water
¼ c oil
¾ c cider vinegar
1 c sugar

Refrigerate 'at least' 2 hrs.
Serve with 'Scoops' (boat like chips).

ENJOY and get your scoops in fast as it disappears before you know it even if you eat somewhere besides the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Monday, August 27, 2012

This land is your land...

Every year for 37 years La Crosse has been home for the Great River Folk Festival. Starting with a Friday night concert, Saturday and Sunday were filled with two full days of great music, old-time dance, regional artisan crafts, children’s activities, ethnic foods, plus two more evening concerts. There was even a song writing concert. Who knows maybe Simon will enter next year?

It is always great seeing people you know too at local events in 'town.' Look who they entrusted to collect t-shirt/cd monies. Yep that's Sue and Dick. Right, that's Sue with her hand in the kitty...
And look who didn't mind posing with one of her 2 college buddies in the trio for the Friday concert! Annie does remember those college boys while they were in Ashland. They even mentioned her during the concert.

This particular Friday evening's opening concert was a special tribute to the songwriter Woody Guthrie celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth featuring three Minnesota legends, Tony Glover, Charlie Maguire and Pops Wagner who came together in this rare collaboration.

We enjoyed hearing the trio’s storytelling and Guthrie’s original music as they tied it to their own experiences as young musicians when they hung around the musical greats of those depression years/ researched them. Family, friends and archivists at the Woody Guthrie Foundation in NY, provided more of an insight as Guthrie wrote songs for the government artists’s program.

Dry banter added humor to the musical tribute to this legend who wrote some of the best folk music we still play today. Thousands of his lyrics still haven’t been published. How could one man be so prolific and those lyrics be just as relevant now as back then. Folk legends like Guthrie aren’t born every day…

This land is your land, this land is my land… I guess that makes you part owner of End of the Rainbow Valley. Hey, what day do you want to come over to help weed?

Friday, August 24, 2012


As far as I'm concerned women are usually the doers and shakers of most successful organizations. Is it that they have had lots of practice as they started young mediating schoolyard squirmishes, caring for skinned knees and hurt feelings? Maybe it's because women have been multitasking running households for ages. It should then come as no surprise that even in our religious institutions that it is the women that are the real backbone of the organizing.

Well this holds true in our congregation. Each year monies are raised by this Women's League which consists of a relatively small group of dedicated women to enable numerous beautification/repair projects in our building along with camp scholarships, etc... Wednesday night was our candle/rose ceremony for the installation of officers. These officers make sure we complete projects like sponsoring receptions/ Sabbath dinners for our community in addition to providing bereavement meals and so on. Just watching out for our small community and raising monies for our general upkeep.

One such fundraiser is the food booth at the 37th Great River Folk Festival which happens to be this weekend. Since Saturday is our Sabbath, you can only find us there on Sunday.
I will be helping 'chop' starting at 7 am. We will chop and chop and chop cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, peppers and parsley to make lots of Israeli salad.
So if you just happen to be in La Crosse on Sunday for some good music, be sure and stop by our booth to treat yourself to either lunch/dinner as you can buy a plate of humus, tabouli and babaganough served with pita. We will also have homemade pastries like strudel, Russian tea cakes and baklava made by our members. YUMMY.

Our biggest fundraiser, the corned beef sandwich box lunch sale caused quite a discussion as to questions of if we should hold the event/ when it could happen/ how many to make.It was decided to plan on selling a 1000 sandwiches this year for the November 1st date. We have to presell. I tried to get them to agree to the 800 but they wouldn't listen. Do the math - about 6 hours to get 1000 box lunches made and delivered if they are 'large' orders by noon, and the remaining will be picked up by foot traffic. Even though we have a great assembly line of sandwich makers starting about 6am...
OK with the cost of corned beef at about $14/lb the sandwiches are not this big! But it does make your mouth water, doesn't it? Included in the box will be the corned beef sandwich on rye bread,a bag of potato chips, a kosher dill pickle and homemade brownie all for $9.00. So do let me know if you'd like to treat your office/ family that live in town. We'd love to sell you as many as your heart desires of our delicious corned beef lunches. This is about the only time of the year corned beef makes it back to the End of the Rainbow Valley.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Artsy Fartsy Promoted...

I have had this outstanding invite for the oldest granddaughter to come out for art projects for the summer and she finally took me up on it. So we made the most of the day making it an 'ART' day.

Our first project started with a collection of garden and meadow flowers to make a bouquet. Planning included discussing 'Design' re: number, color, texture and height were discussed before we headed out into the flower beds. I was the officially flower holder until the collection was complete. I wasn't sure everything was going to fit into the mason jar vase. The bouquet provided not only a variety of all the design elements but also a luscious aroma. Heck I think she picked at least one of everything.

Step two involved the guest artist photographing the arrangement and after 20 snapshots, the pics were edited by cropping and discarding unwanted pics until she reached a top 5. She was a super quick learner at a not so easy task as we collaborated.

BUT it was time for lunch and fortunately Natureman was on top of it. While we were creating so was he and we enjoyed fresh 'mater slices in our BLT's(turkey bacon, of course) with that cucumber concoction disaster from the other day that ended up aging quite well, chips and grapes. Birthday chocolate pie was for dessert. Fed. Next was a quick fashion show.
When I was in Little Rock, I had to visit a children's shop where I had outfitted my kids when they were little. The only thing that caught my eye for a great little dress for the artist of Sam's family, so we decided with a pair of leggings it would be perfect. Besides we have to have the artsy look, right? BUT no she can't wear my mule heels at age 10.

Time to continue the project so we printed off the flower prints and made them into greeting cards.
This process involved trimming, gluing and handwriting handmade on the backs... We even got a get well card in the mail by the end of the day to her Great Grandma.

"What's next?" she asked. Oh ok, time to take a break from card making, we went back outside this time to start a spray paint project with a wire brush, small brush, newspaper and paints to repaint the antique garden end tables.

The guest artist chose to use yellow, red and orange as our color scheme. Notice the kidney shaped table she's sitting on also got a new topcoat and it will be finished another day. The sky darkened and started spitting on us as we finished just in time to return to the card making.

Different techniques made each piece original. Time for a snack break. Boy the grapes are great this time of year. A quick glue job on the last 2 cards and it was time for the Art Camp to come to an end. Gee, it was already 5 o'clock.Where did the time go?

I think we made up for some of the missed summer art days... don't you?

All I know was that I was exhausted... LOL.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Blow out the candles...

Birthday celebrations as you probably have realized hold different significance for every family. I probably have mentioned how big a deal they were in my family as we started off 'our' day with birthday cake surrounded by cards and gifts. The day was ours to do with as we chose which always included a birthday party when we were kids and our favorite meal for the birthday dinner. 'Star' for a day.

Natureman's traditions definitely did not include store bought cards and if anything hand written notes. So of course I handmade him a card adapting some of the Beatle's lyrics of "When I'm 64" converted to Now you're 64... Cake is not one of the birthday boy's favorite desserts so his request was honored for a Chocolate pie, not the kind from 'The Help". This one had a chocolate chip cookie crust and oowie was it ever sweet! I did pre-taste the filling...snicker, snicker.. well I had to lick my fingers.
Natureman spent his day kayaking the backwaters of the Mississippi since I had a second day of a technology inservice and I returned him to an 'exhausted' birthday boy. He said he just didn't have the stamina he used to have. "Did you stop and rest?" I asked. Nope, he had continuously paddled for 3 hours straight against the stream to follow the canoe trail. Gosh, people a lot younger would be tired too I reassured him. He looked wiped. We rested a bit reading birthday greetings on the computer and me sharing my inservice day experiences. Everyone needs some ' down' town.
I evenoffered to we have a home cooked meal rather than going out but he was anticipating the batter fried fish dinner.( It must have been all that river water!:) I drove as we jaunted in the Miata and headed to the Ridge Restaurant. Look he made all gone! That fish helped him regain some of his strength... He just ate the whipped cream topping of the birthday cupcake they gave him as he knew that chocolate pie was awaiting him.

We returned home sated and ready for a movie and of course birthday dessert... And do you know what? Natureman was so exhausted that he could only blow out one candle at a time... It had been a big day for the Birthday Boy, my Natureman.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lazy Day on the Mississippi...

After having to spend a couple of days inside due to workshop/orientation one really appreciates the opportunity to be outside especially since the weather has been so glorious. It was a great treat to be asked to spend a 'Sunday' afternoon on the Mississippi boating and picnicking.

Off we went to board our sea faring vessel in La Crescent. The voyage certainly was a lot faster than when Natureman and I canoe from Goose Island even when we don't get lost...hehehe

Some huge looming black clouds scared away many who usually beach at the big sand bar cove but alas not our crew of Captain Savta and his 1st mate Galya and her Gramma assistant mate, Natureman and myself.

Those threatening clouds rained on others before us but they blew over and we enjoyed beautiful blue skies while the guys tried to play a game of chess after having their board knocked over twice. OOPs mia culpa once.

We had a yummy cookout on the sand bar minus sand with grilled lamb chops, potato salad, fresh veggies, watermelon,slaw salad. I had worked on a cucumber salad but one of the cukes was bitter so that concoction was left at home,but that day's sweet corn and cherry tomatoes made the trip as well as some fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies to accompany Sara's great carrot cake. WE so enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and cooler temps. The rain missed us but we didn't miss it and NO bugs!

Gramma Sara answered her granddaughter's 100 questions and had to keep jumping up and down... Heck I think I was the only one that got to be truly lazy that day.
Some days you just have to leave the End of the Rainbow Valley and enjoy the mighty Mississippi as long as its your neighbor...