Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

People makes lots of New Year's resolutions but one I am determined to continue fostering is my creative side.  Last year I signed up for a watercolor class and really enjoyed the class and camaraderie  with others who also enjoy 'dabbling' in the arts.

I have a very artistic friend whom we will shall call ' Sugar Babe'  (her hubby calls her 'Babe', OK?) who has starting expressing her artistic ability by taking cake decorating classes. She then devotes each Sunday to cake decorating. Now that's dedication. Her work cohorts get to enjoy her creations every Monday.

I decided to get a jump start on my New Year and joined her yesterday as she proceeded to decorate not one, but two cakes.  The first was a paint lacing technique and the second was a woodland scene.

The cakes themselves had been made ahead of time and kept in the freezer and ready to work with as fondant ( pre-made play- do like frosting ) was rolled out.

You can make your desired color by adding it to a white base.  Isn't this lavender yummy?

Drape the rolled out fondant over the cake base and trim off the excess. Be sure and always save the extra in saran wrap just in case you find another use for it.

After you have form fitted the fondant you can achieve a shiny surface. Yes that's a travel steamer in her hand. The steamer's heat and moisture add a nice gloss.

Now take your pastry tube filled with the desired frosting and tip and zig zag on your design in this case a flower. Then you use a square paintbrush to drag the design inward to create striations and soften the design.

I told you this was an artistic endeavor and after all the flowers have been drawn, vertical lines are added which take a very steady hand followed by short horizontal lines to create a brick pattern.

The brick edges are then woven together ( I should have videotaped that part), the edges beaded and a gorgeous frosted laced cake resulted.

Cake Number Two 's inspiration were morel mushrooms that had resulted by experimenting with different pastry tips.  I didn't get to stay through the entire process... But take a look at this woodland creation.

Morels had a dusting of gold powder, sugar strands added the pine needles, extra fondant was tinted and sponged to become moss. Almonds were capped and there's a slug hiding somewhere under the leaf.

 Violets were awaiting their yellow stamens and I know there was more to come after I left...

I almost forgot to mention that the excess cake is placed outside on the deck and Mr. Squirrel and some 'Sweet' Loving Cats enjoy these Sunday creations too.

So I wasn't the only one that enjoyed the cake decorating afternoon...

Sometimes you just have to leave the End of the Rainbow Valley for some great nature and art !

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Last Day...

Natureman off for his last day of work...
For those of you that have kids I bet you have a photo in some album of your child's first day of going off to school, right?  All spiffed up with the excitement of the new world that lay ahead...

Well yesterday here in the End of the Rainbow Valley, we had a very similar scene of a culmination of 40 some odd years of heading out the door for work for Natureman. The smile was one of mixed feelings as this was his last day of work.

For about 22 years on Thursdays, the alarm has gone off at 5:30 am to rouse a sleeping Natureman for his work day in  Richland Center.  He didn't have to leave until 7:10 for the hour drive but the man has his 'ritual.' There were chores to be taken care of before heading out... In the winter wood has to be brought in to make the day's fire and there are animals to be fed after a leisurely cup of coffee and his bowl of granola.

There were only 2 appointments awaiting this last work day as his clients have been weaned off to other therapists and last week's blizzard cancelled his scheduled work day and the 'surprise' retirement party his coworkers had planned.  When previously asked about a party, he in his humble way had said it wasn't necessary... but he had seen a flyer in the lunchroom announcing the 'surprise' farewell.

So at lunchtime when he walked into the lunchroom, there plastered all over the walls were copies of his picture and table bedecked with sub sandwiches, a sheet cake with the same photo, cards and small tokens of appreciation with his coworkers awaiting him. 

He heard things that make one feel good of how he had touched lives, taught them and his importance in his clients's lives. 

There was his desk/office to be cleared out which probably didn't fill half a brown paper bag as the man saves nothing unlike yours truly.

So people ask now " What are you going to do in your retirement?"  Natureman has basically done all the things  that make him happy which I am sure he will continue doing as long as he physically can- cycling, canoeing, cross country skiing...  He will continue his social activism, the Power line work to try to keep unnecessary lines from crossing the Mississippi into our area. And I have a distinct feeling that he will find some volunteer clinic / support group work that can use his expertise.  This senior has a lot still to offer the world.

He hasn't ever been a traveler per se but has spoken of wilderness adventures like hiking down in the Grand Canyon- But for now I know that he will be content just to have another day for walking his beloved End of the Rainbow Valley... Happy Retirement Natureman!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Compassion Training?

Living in the End of the Rainbow Valley with Natureman  has indeed changed my life forever in many ways.  One specifically is Air Time which now includes a monopoly by Public Radio. Oh, I still listen to my favorite music on other stations in the car when I am alone but at home, it's NPR/WPR/MPR( National Public Radio/Wisconsin/Minnesota Public Radio)  It's also now on my donation list at year's end. It really is a public service in educating. It certainly came as no surprise when 'others' saw it as a threat and wanted to defund it ...

Anyhow one never knows what's going to be learned from the unusual array of Public Radio topics especially at Holiday time.

Did you know that you can take a six week course in "Compassion Training?"

WHY?  T0 learn how to be empathetic, kind and compassionate. 

Suffering is the key and how we work to relieve  it. There are factors such as life experiences, stress and social pressure  that affect  our capacity to express compassion.

HOW?  One needs support,  patience, steady care and the proper tools facing things as they are, identify  self criticism and shame dynamics.
WHAT?   Mindfulness.  Meditation ie Yoga , becoming aware 
WHY?  To not avoid the pain in order to improve  personal relationships  and to make a difference  in the world, instead of running away from the suffering..
Health will be affected as well as  happiness and well-being to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression

SO my friends  when do you think we as a society can sign up?

Click on link below to watch clip....
Compassion in the Corporate World

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Cheer?

OK I realize I am probably not going to win a popularity contest with this blog entry. BUT  gluttony is never a popular topic anyway. Tis the season to be jolly. Ho, ho, ho. Some have so so much and others have  so very little... Ho, ho, ho.

Have you ever had the opportunity to watch some HGTV decorating programs?  Well I caught a  special decorating show for Christmas where 3 Interior Designers in each show decorate celebrities's homes.  These homes included a variety of performers, musically and theatrical and a former sports figure.  Not only were 2 rooms of each home elaborately transformed to Christmas wonderlands with  theme appropriate desserts/ dinner  but in some cases there was  even entertainment and exterior lighting culminating in a soiree for the owners's family/ friends.

Light enchantment 

This pool was filled with 100's of balloons...

I realize wealthy people are 'busy/ maybe not into decorating' but what I can't understand is why people who can afford to hire decorators are the recipient of these TV designers's expertise. Maybe because we the viewers want to be voyeurs into the homes of the rich and famous...

But how much more meaningful to provide this fairytale Christmas for those who are not really living a ' fairytale' life?  Heck, maybe the celebrity shells out $10,000 to have this done and gets a discount since they are filming it for TV but we are never told as the viewer. I know we are supposed to get ideas for our own homes. Some easy to do makeovers... Right in our spare time with our spare chump change.

The discrepancy really hit me when a TV celebrity who has one, yes one 9 yr. old daughter has their big Tudor home's den transformed into Santa's Workshop complete with his desk to write Santa letters and 100's of wrapped boxes stacked to cover  book shelves, Santa's chair awaiting his arrival and yes he does arrive, a toy train encircling the tree and while she has 1, yes one other child guest at the party. How cool would have it been to have created this for an orphanage and let the kids have at the candy cane bedecked dinner table. 

It would be so much more meaningful if Christmas was provided for people who can't go out and decorate because they don't have that kind of discretionary monies. Why not provide a beautiful Christmas for these families? To be treated and fed like you are royalty for one day of the year. No styrofoam in the soup kitchen/ shelter. Impractical? Maybe. But how gloriously special!

Reality is that we don't like to talk about poverty in our country.  BUT what better time to  be spreading a little joy to those who may have lost jobs and homes...  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Seasonal generosity comes in many forms  and always makes me well up.  There are feel good stories like Newton Police who didn’t have to work this Christmas as neighboring police forces took their patrols and countless others...

 But there are a lot more stories this season like the gentleman who hands out $100 dollar bills  / shelter stories like a musician who entertains for free, a volunteer who collects day old bread and drops it off , a woman who cooks dinner twice a month / the man who writes a $1.2 million dollar check after hearing of an idea of buying an old school and turning into apartments for the homeless.

Every year our Jazzercise class has a tree covered with  gift request tags from a 'needy' family.  This year’s family tags were very different than previous ones and I think it is a reflection of what is happening in our country. This year the tags asked for diapers, shampoo, socks... not Nike tennis shoes/ I pods. I am sure you get the picture... Necessities that we have and take for granted. 

You see the majority of the people who received those $100 bills after showering the giver with gigantic bear hugs and tears when asked how they would use the money responded to give their children a Christmas with gifts, to pay off hospital bills/ to be able to buy 'food.' 

So  my tears are not only due to this Christmas seasonal generosity and the appreciation of its recipients but the sincere wish that there wasn’t such a great need for so many. 

May  We and our Families count our blessings  and may we all work to eradicate this growing poverty  in our country... Now that would be a terrific present.   

Happy Holidays from the End of the Rainbow Valley.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Crust, Crud, Slush, Powder, Ice, Heavy, Wet...

After the unexpected Tuesday snowfall and the near rollover along with weatherman's Wednesday blizzard forecast, it wasn't tough at all to make a conscious decision to stay home. There was no way in God's green earth ok white earth that I was going to get stuck out in more treacherous conditions.  I didn't leave the valley for 3 days and I had a lovely time reading, working on projects and lots of   Scrabble.  It is amazing how observant you become when you limit your day's experience. You see all the dust and spiders's work without even moving from the couch... 

Nature has been much busier than I so I thought I 'd share some of its 'cold' work with you.  Snow can have a variety of design techniques with both inanimate and animate objects... 
Outlining the  door's window 

the snow outlines and even shadows the branches

Snow can change lines...

It can blanket/
 even use a window like a fancy etch a sketch...
 or where there is no snow, birds can line up...

Designs can created within it ...                                                                                                              

So even if you are not able to 'smell the roses '- it's nice to  take time to slow down and enjoy all of the seasonal sights around. For us in the End of the Rainbow Valley this white stuff is going to be around a long, long time. And I have a strong suspicion that there is going to be a lot more to admire.
You can even get  your nose powdered!

Friday, December 21, 2012


Natureman visited the library on Wednesday knowing that we would be needing some entertainment with a blizzard descending upon the area. He returned home with books and 5 movies.  It wasn't serendipity that made him choose 'Dr. Zhivago' since he knew those Siberian like conditions were heading our way.  I guess he wanted to make sure that no matter what happened to us in the Valley, it wouldn't be as bad as living through the Russian Revolution and its winter. How many of you can even remember Dr. Zhivago?  All I could remember that it was the longest movie ever.  Even the intermission didn't help when I saw it at the Heights Theater in Little Rock, Arkansas some 40 + years ago and you know what?  It didn't  seem any shorter this go round either. Well fortunately last night's showing a much different lighter choice, "Serendipity", a cute romantic comedy, with Michael Cusack,  was a welcomed relief after a long day of blizzard like conditions.

Maybe luck / destiny places a greater role in our lives than we wish to believe.  ' Serendipity' brought Natureman and me together. If you don't know our on-line dating story, we met because I  thought that  the area code 608 was for the Madison area for possible matches, not 4 hours across the state. Who knew? But if it wasn't for that unintended mistake, well we never would have met. Gee and I wouldn't be here in the End of the Rainbow Valley with Natureman and all this snow...

Anybody like to share some  other serendipity (a happy accident ) ie: you found something useful that you weren't looking for/expecting ... Please  do share!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

White Out!

  "Well, what did you expect with  a whiteout?  No honey, it doesn't take the gray out of your hair."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's NOT My Time Yet...

It's only midweek and it has been way too emotional to say the least ... it's my very own PTSD type of week and Tuesday was no help.  Weathermen had forecasted welcoming winter with a complete white out and 6-12 inches of snow with 40mph winds to start on Wednesday evening.  THAT would be today.  There was a possibility of a little snow late in the day Tuesday so as I was traveling to our Jazzercise Luncheon and a couple flakes were blowing around, I didn't think much of it...   As I approached our hostess's  home and the inclines became steeper there sat my destination atop a long driveway. I opted to park street side with a few others and make the climb on foot...

Now you know what's coming because the snow really started falling. The home's large beautiful windows had a spectacular view of the surrounding hills becoming whiter. As we were eating lunch enjoying the view, one gal who didn't have four wheel drive decided to move her car down to the street per the homeowner's suggestion as the snow was starting to accumulate. One of our 'country' college girls offered to move it for her. She returned  reporting that it was 'slick.' Another chimed in -" yeah, the car was sliding sideways as she went down the drive." EEGADS!

Alas when departure time came since no one had worn boots and it might be a treacherous walk downhill, we decided to get a ride down to our cars.  My ride had squished four of us in the truck cab's back seat with one passenger up front. Then rather than heading straight down the driveway, the driver did the unexpected as she turned the opposite direction. Being the back seat driver I am, I inquired why she was turning and she replied that she was going to back down the hill that her husband had just gotten new tires.  I was puzzled but heck I am just a Southerner, what do I know about snow?  I told  the truckload to just close their eyes.  "Everybody?" someone questioned as we all laughed and I quickly added. "Well not the driver."  So back we went slowly and proceeded to slide and slide we did- right over the steep edge of the driveway with nothing to stop us until the driver said some very unwelcomed words; " I think we are going to roll..."

Now some of you may remember I had just experienced a rollover in June.  I had convinced myself  that was my first and last time so this was not OK.  Panic shot through me  she finished the word 'roll' and as the car started to tip and we braced ourselves, it righted and stabilized itself on a flat tier. OMG. There we sat about a good 20 feet below the drive. Someone quickly said we'd walk the rest of the way and there was no argument from me. I couldn't get out of that vehicle fast enough... Shaken doesn't begin to say how my insides felt. As unsteady as my hand was... I snapped this quick pic where you can see our tracks although there is no perspective. (Just double the tracks upward)  Heck I couldn't get to my car fast enough. I needed to sit down and breathe.

After  regaining my composure, I checked with surrounding drivers as to their intentions.  2 of them had husbands coming to pick them up/ move their cars. Well this Southerner put the car in low gear and on all wheel drive and slowly crept down the hill. No sliding. Whew, so far so good.  When I got to the main road out of the subdivision, there sat a fire truck with its firemen diverting traffic. Accidents were both ways with one direction closed off but the other with advice to proceed with caution.

Slow wasn't a problem. I had just been spared. There was no rush. Boy was I happy to pull into my garage, close the door behind me and know I am staying put for the next couple of days until we are dug out on Thursday.  I heard my heals clicking as I repeated the phrase...There's no place like home, there's no place like home like in the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Seasonal Lights... A Million Mississippi Reflections

The other day we happened to be in downtown La Crosse after sundown and had some time so we decided to join the masses and visit the Rotary Lights in Riverside Park.  It has become quite a spectacle in its 18 years of existence.

Some 3000 volunteers give of their time to provide  this impressive display of 2.6 million lights on the Mississippi.  Those volunteers include many organizations besides the Police Reserve who help direct the constant traffic once sundown arrives.

The Rotary Lights mission is to "feed the hungry of the Coulee Region."  A myriad of non profit organizations take turns sponsoring each night of the display. Upon departure of the park you are asked for a monetary/ food donation. Over 200,000 items of food were collected last year and this year's goal is to reach 250,000.  In 17 years over two million items have been collected. That's a lot of food but there unfortunately is a lot of need...

Little kids stood in awe of the Christmas light magic with so much to take in. One little person with a huge smile on her face opened her arms as wide as she could embracing the splendor of the sight. A variety of Christmas music both live and canned added to the festive night air. Deep within me I didn't really care at the moment that this was adding to light pollution but what I really wished was that next year not so many people would be hungry...

If you would like to learn more about the Rotary Lights go to:

and if you are in the Milwaukee area here is a link to the northshore's light display map to visit individual home light masterpieces: Whitefish Bay Light Display

Monday, December 17, 2012


I have been unusually quiet these last few days since the elementary school shooting... But really what can you say to a nation that is in love with its guns and refuses to change its laws regarding them?
Just look at other countries's death counts and you don't have to be a genius to know that our country's  is out of whack. The Newton school shooting like others stirs up memories from 36 years ago when I was looking into the barrel of a handgun pointed at me...

Yep during my first year of teaching in South Carolina I was held at gunpoint in the high school registrar's office for the longest two hours of my life. It was one of those cases of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn't know the gun wielding student and he didn't know me nor the female student aide nor the registrar in the small office. So why the gun?  The student's girlfriend had decided to break up with him ( she was a former student in the school, now in college) His grandiose plan was to hold someone hostage to get her back. So he took one of his Dad's handguns (his Dad was a police officer) and waving the pistol around was telling us what he wanted after he locked the door behind him.  We were to contact the main office which actually was directly across the hall and tell them his demands via phone. As he cocked the gun and pointed it at each of us, he informed us that he loaded wadcutter bullets and that they could pierce the door as if it was cardboard and we had better not try anything. I reassured him that there was nowhere that we could go as the room was basically the size of a large closet.  His beef wasn't wasn't with the student aide, couldn't he just let her go? No, he replied "we were all staying..."  I did convince him to not point the gun at us and.... eventually persuaded him to hand me the gun at the end of the two hours. He proceeded to remove the bullets and hand me the empty gun.

Unbeknownst to us after the initial call, the office had sent out a 'lock down' code message that the school had an armed intruder. Even that long ago schools had emergency plans to implement for such possibilities. During negotiations, busses were driven to various exits and students hallway by hallway had been evacuated to safety. By the time we walked out of that tiny office two hours later, the entire school was empty besides the squat team police officers. Fortunately no one was hurt.

 OK you can say that was just an isolated incident, a disturbed young man but tragedy could have ensued... I have always wondered what happened to the offender and what precautions his Dad then took with his weapons.

The bottom line dear people is that none of us is 'safe.'  It has nothing to do with G-d in our schools. It has to do with people. People 'lose' it and the last thing you want them to have is access to a gun...

Here is a link to the President's powerful speech regarding the safety of our Nation's children if you  haven't had a chance to hear it...  It's time for us a Nation to make changes. If not now, when?

President Obama's Memorial Speech

Friday, December 14, 2012

Life is a Cabaret...

One thing is for certain and that is when you have a university community there is somethng always going on... Tonight 23 UW-L students in Cabaret 2012 , a new class on campus chose songs to bring this cabaret to life and show us what it is like be Twenty Something:Generation Us.

So many enthusiastic young people with beautiful voices chose musical numbers that demonstrated the desire to find love, take a stand, use cool gadgets, and throw parties. And yet realize that the world they knew as children is much different full of struggle, sadness and student debt but not without  Hope, and the promise of tomorrow...

Muiscal Numbers included:

Merrily We Roll Along
A Wild, Wild Party
Good Morning, Good Morning
Java Live
The Art of Speed Dating
Almost Like Being in Love
It's an Art
For Now
My Eyes
Light/ Medley of Hope,
21 Guns
Website Story
Hear My Song
and last but not least, here's a link to the finale...
Twenty Something click for the song (just not the 23 performers we enjoyed)

They got that right you blink and you are no longer twenty something...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bucket List...

I don't know how many of you saw the 2008 movie " The Bucket List" with Jack Nicolson and Morgan Freeman where the two set out on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they die/ as the proverbial saying goes ' kick the bucket.'  Well after seeing that movie, I decided I needed to make my own list just for the heck of it. AND guess I get to mark another item off my bucket list... no, it's not the Alaskan sea faring ship although in a way it has to do with the high sea/ C.  I have been cast as one of the six women starring in a dramatic comedy, Pirates of Chemotherapy , a breast cancer fundraiser. I am super excited to be chosen to be part of this venture.

It's a real good thing my acting resume wasn't required but hey, aren't all teachers actors?  As the saying goes " All the world's a stage."  And the director told us we would be starting on 'character development.'  I'm thinking better not wait any longer on that one since I am not getting any younger.

So here's the deal- We will be performing in a 600 seat theatre and want to fill those seats as all the ticket sales go to the Vinger Breast Cancer Center at Gundersen-Lutheran. The playwright only charges $10.00 / show so that all rest of the money can go to the cause.
As my friend Cyndy stated so well, "a star is born!"
SO mateys and all your crews, mark your calendars for February 8, 9 and 10th. In the meanwhile we'll see how well the memory works as I set about memorizing lines. AND heck if you can't come, just send the $ since you know the need ... Unfortunately all of us have been touched by Cancer.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Another Four Lettered Word...

It was inevitable, we knew it was coming besides it's almost the second week of December. The weathermen didn't lie and we actually got that dreaded 4 letter word - SNOW.  I have to admit that if you have to get snow, it is terrific to get it on a day when you really don't have to rush anywhere.  You can actually just enjoy its beauty and not have to deal with traffic and or traveling.  That first real snowfall really is breathtakingly beautiful, especially here in the End of the Rainbow Valley.

It  was snowing Sunday when I awoke and it continued snowing all day changing from a  sugar powder sprinkling to clumps of white stuff falling from the heavens transforming the scenery.

The frenzied birds congregated at the feeders as their ground food supply become snow covered. They waited in nearby trees to have their turn at the numerous feeders. We must have had a couple dozen at a time at our kitchen window.  Their  racket interrupted the otherwise winter quiet as they all stayed to break open their sunflower seeds not wanting to drop  their food supply. There was an incessant tap, tap, tapping until dark...

Well, the snowfall did exceed the predicted four inches... and I can't lie, sometimes the passing thought occurs as to if we're going to be able to get out...
SO Let me tell you that there's nothing better than seeing the flashing lights of our snow plough guy's truck as it makes it way up to the house.  Those lights signal 'freedom' that if we had to leave, we could. Natureman's still ruminating about getting a tractor with a plough... If he does, I sure hope he'll attach some of those flashing lights...


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fry, Baby Fry

'Tis the week... the week of frying all over the world in Jewish homes as Chanuka, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated.  Saturday night the first candles were lit, prayers were said, traditional songs sang and the smell of latkes, potato pancakes, was in the air. In fact that smell still lingers in the house eventhough the house fan definitely worked overtime.

Heck,  I probably smell like fried potatoes...

You see OIL plays an important role in this holiday as one miracle that happened besides that small band of Maccabees winning a battle for religious freedom against the large Assyrian army was also when the remaining urn of oil for the eternal light in the destroyed Temple was able to last more than one day until replacements were found.  There is a discrepancy of whether it was really for eight days but that's ok, one week it is.

I have tried a variety of latke recipes over the years but the traditional sour cream and applesauce are always the toppers. This is not a time to be counting calories although I do purchase 'lite' sour cream and we make our own apple sauce with limited sugar.

We grow our own potatoes so this is a great time to deplete some of our bounty. Thanks to the Shiksa in the Kitchen Blog,  my new addition this year was 'Panko' bread crumbs instead of flour/matzo meal to make a crunchier latke.

There's always a discussion of how people like their potato pancakes.  Light, fluffy, crispy, fat /thin.... each family has different preferences. My Dad was the 'latke maker' in my household growing up and he liked his 'crispy' and thin. Natureman loves his fried food and I have relinquished on many occasion the latke making to him. BUT I got to make the batch for this year's first night.

 Read on if you dare- but be prepared to get hungry...

OK go get the ingredients besides the obvious potatoes...

2-3 lbs potatoes (Yukon Gold -our preference) grated*
juice of 1 lime/lemon ( to prevent browning)
1 lg onion, grated
2/3 eggs beaten
1 c Panko bread crumbs
1-2 T potato starch
salt and pepper to taste ( you can always add more later)

This recipe makes about 2 dozen latkes.

*Now Natureman insists on hand grating but I am a Cuisinart gal and into 'time' and 'skin/nail' saving.
If you have two different size graters, use the smaller one.
(I broke my smaller grating disc so I had to use the larger one)
I know people who use frozen hash browns for their latkes. But hey we are potato rich...

Once the potatoes are grated, cover them with water and add the citrus juice to prevent browning/ gray latkes.

Then as you heat your oil, drain your potatoes removing as much liquid as possible. First I use a big colander squeezing down with both hands on top of the grated mound and then I place the potatoes in a tea cloth and wring it.  (Some use cheese cloth.)
Now that you are tired, throw those grated strained potatoes into a big bowl, mixing in all of the other ingredients well -
onion, eggs, potato starch ( you can use the milky liquid that accumulates at the bottom of the grated potatoes), salt, pepper and panko bread crumbs.

To your fry pan add enough oil (about 1/4 in.) to cover the latke sides partially.  I use both a large electric fry pan and a fry pan on the gas stove top to expediate the frying procedure.

Test your oil temp with a pinch of your mixture. If it bubbles and starts frying you are ready to roll. If it's smoking, it's too hot. Different oils are less smoky then others for frying.. Olive oil can be heated up to a little under 400 degrees. Start the exhaust fan regardless. Trust me.

As I make each latke, I take a little less than a 1/4 c and squeeze it in my hand, extracting more liquid  Use an already dirty bowl to catch that extra liquid. Who knew potatoes had so much liquid, right?

-Mold into croquette/ pancake patty dependent on personal choice.
 If it falls apart add more of one of the binders (either the Panko/ starch/egg)
-Place with spatula gingerly into the oil.
-Remember not to crowd the latkes as they are frying. I usually have more than one pan going at a time.
-Allow latke to brown a good 2-3 minutes before flipping...
Place on cooling rack to allow extra oil to drip off. I place a double layer of paper towel under the rack. (Just for my enviromental friends - I use the oil drenched paper towel as a fire starter)
Preheat oven to warm.
Take a cookie sheet and place drained latkes on top and pop into the oven to keep warm until serving.

Leftovers can be frozen/you can always make these ahead of time. Then when you need them, just put the oven, broil and voila latkes without having to deal with that frying mess.

Schmeckt gut...Tastes good.

If  you're like me you'll be chanting: Lots of latkes, lots of latkes, let's all eat them up...
Did you hear me from the End of the Rainbow Valley?

Friday, December 7, 2012

I'm Back and So Are They!

You know it's funny that I had no problem filling my hiatus from the computer world since my MacBook Pro spent over a week awaiting repair.  It must have been these "heavy" blog entry topics that overworked the 3 year old hard disk. (Now that's a laugh, eh?)

I have spoken about the tundra swan migration that attracts more than these birds to the upper Mississippi region. Remember I commented on the photographers that arrived with the big cameras. Well last week as I was heading 'into town' (that would be La Crosse) there sitting at the new bird observation area was not one of those humongous lenses but a double set up. Now that looked real serious. Part of me wanted to pull over and just figure out what they were looking at since the majority of the tundras had taken off right after Thanksgiving... Hmmm?

I did my errands and upon my return, lo and behold there still sat the camera and two guys sitting on folding chairs.  Of course curiosity got the better of me and I pulled over ... Well you just never know until you ask, right?

One of the men was from the area but the other, a young cutie had an English accent. ( Did you ever notice accents add to the cuteness?) I started the conversation with the lame weather topic but it  really was unseasonably warm and how the tundra flocks had certainly diminished since the previous week.  We even had had a 'couchsurfer' from Ohio who had come to photograph the swans and almost missed them due to the sudden cold snap. Well it turns out that these guys were not really interested in the tundras right now as they are filming a documentary for BBC Discovery Channel on the life of the eagle on the Mississippi. Isn't that cool?

We spoke about the increase in the eagle population as there are now at least five nests near End of the Rainbow Valley. Back in 1978 eagles were rare and declared an 'endangered' species. I had seen at least a dozen eagles catching the wind and soaring amidst the bluffs en route to town that day.  During our conversation I learned that eagles have definite schedules so these guys knew when activity would pick up on this river spot again.  I was really glad that I took the time to stop. The young guy will be starting his next project on dolphins and will be filming in Australia. Wow nice job.

It turns out our Ohio couchsurfer from the previous week had actually caught some beautiful eagle shots and I am so glad to be able to share this one with you. What magnificent birds... the American Bald Eagle.    
                                               Welcome back to our Nation's Bird!

Immature and Mature Eagle Pair taken by Pete Conrad

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