Monday, March 31, 2014

Under the Weather

Some relatives reported having serious colds after the wedding and boom on Wednesday night my throat started closing in on me... I awoke Thursday feeling like a truck had run over me. Did anyone get the license plate?  Heck,  is there ever a good time to get a cold, much less a whopper of a cold?

O'Keefe poppies Milwaukee Art in Bloom '09
Milwaukee plans to meet with the accountant, see friends and 'Art in Bloom' at the Museum all would just remain plans. After a night with minmal sleep, I knew there was no way I could make the trek nor did I want to carry my germs to my friends in another city. 
Alas... cancel I did. 

My replacement camera had even arrived in time to make the trip but alas this was not meant to be its trial run. So much for celebrating the arrival of spring where floral arrangements are designed after being paired up with a piece from the museum's permanent collection. It's eye candy at its best. Here's a pic from last year's show which I unfortunately also missed ...
Floral arrangements are designed to accompany the Chihuly glass sculpture  in the center.
Alas, I recognized there was no way I'd be able to sit through lectures of floral design, gardening, cooking and sugar artistry much less be among the throngs of visitors. Dang.

Sometimes one has to do what's best for others and oneself. My body just needed getting well time right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley... It sure is rough getting old and having to make a grownup decision.

Friday, March 28, 2014

FOTO FRIDAY:CHANGE OF SCENERY

The scenery's changing as the warm up has finally begun . Rains have descended upon the coulee and as the rains melt the snow the puddles are becoming bigger because the ground's still frozen and there's no where for all that water to go.
  
It rained so much that some yards now have temporary water features. 


Side yard view which I hope will drain off down the ravine behind the old house
I don't think I will be hanging out any laundry anytime soon unless I am wearing waders.  Look what happened to friend Connie's back yard who lives about 45 minutes from me.
Connie's Backyard

 Our creek will be overflowing its banks but hopefully areas don't suffer severe flooding...



Little Rock's Hillcrest Neighborhood
Yet look what happened in the southern part of the U.S. Kaye shared her newspaper's photo after a 30 minute downpour in Little Rock, AR. Goodness gracious.
San Carlos


Colleen's  stop for her spring break was San Carlos, Mexico. Now that's a nice body of water!

Aliza shares a reaction many of us have.




Just when we thought it was spring and April showers these white globs fell on Minnesota. More expected.  Sorry Diane!
Snow clumps rather than just flakes.
 

Do you have a change of scenery pic to share?  It can even be of your vacation getaway, not just your yard. You have all week to send them to me. 

If you want to see last week's submissions click:HERE for Hobbies

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Say Cheez...


Will this make your .... curdle? 
No, the missing word is not 'blood.'  I am referring to milk because whenever we have too much milk, it's time to make cheese. 

The kid goats have been weaned since summer's end so we've 'Got Milk.' And what do we do with all that milk that Natureman can't possibile use? We make cheese by adding rennet, a vegetarian rennet tablet ordered on line. It makes the goat milk clabber. (That's dairy talk meaning to curdle.)  



And with the wood stove already working less and less to keep us warm, it's begging to even be more useful.  Thus the perfect spot to leave the pot of milk to warm and coagulate. The trick is to not let the milk get too hot. Some times we use one of those metal diffusers underneath the pot if the fire is burning too hot. 





It'll take a couple of hours before the milk warms enough with the rennet to solidify. Once that happens, the pot is removed from the heat.

The mass will be cut with a knife into large chunks.


Solid cheese separates from the whey and floats to the top
                                                                                                                             
Then it's time to strain the whey off until most of the liquid is removed. 
Some folks use cheese cloth as a strainer and a press but since this batch will be used as a soft cheese like ricotta, it doesn't really need to be pressed. A kitchen screen strainer does the trick.

                                                                                                                       
Now all that's left to do is add kosher salt to the finished product.
  

Voila. Nothing like fresh squeaky cheese.




I promise I'd be the first to tell you if fresh goat cheese really tasted goaty... Using fresh milk is the key.



You can add any herb you'd like. I'm adding parsley since this will be used for stuffing noodles for an upcoming Italian dinner right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley... And all thanks to our wonderful milk goat Jacqueline.


Say CHEEZ...


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Snowbirds of all Kinds...

The bugle like sounds of sandhill cranes and  honking geese are starting to fill the skies above the End of the Rainbow ValleyTheir sound can carry for miles. These birds along with thousands of ducks are back to breed and are busy looking for a good place to nest and mark their territory. 
They are all signs of spring just like sighting of robins for city folk, in the country it's the Red Winged Black Bird. 
Red Winged Blackbird
I hate to tell them but they may have been tricked into returning a bit too early as Mother Nature is still fooling around with the thermostat. As I spot ducks bobbing in the few small open areas along the frozen Mississippi, I feel sorry for them but know they are lucky to still have those down feathers to survive the cold waters.
Natureman spotted a blue bird the day he repaired their birdhouse roof. Great timing for this year's renters. Where's your Missus, Mr. Bluebird? Maybe he gets to make the decision as to where they will raise their new family. 

And those other snowbirds of the human variety are also beginning their return  from Arizona, Florida, Texas and Mexico. Welcome back. We've missed you and you know what? We really are supposed to experience 60 degree weather by next week. I'll believe it when I feel it right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Blessing on Your Head , Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov…

This past Sunday Natureman and I had the pleasure of attending his eldest niece’s special Jewish wedding in Chicago.  What made this wedding so ‘special’ is that this was an arranged marriage. The couple had only met twice before the engagement and only two months lapsed between the engagement and the wedding.  In the olden days arranged marriages weren’t so unusual but in today’s world, it is not so common. We could look at it as speed dating with an arranged introduction.  Yet, there’s no dating to date.  Each knows  history about the individual and their family.  They also know they want to get married and marry someone with the same religious values and  traditions.  In this case,  fundamental Judaism, Chabad, a Hasidic sect. The individuals of course can decide that it’s not a good match and that’s that.  It is not a shotgun wedding. Obviously these two decided that they were a good match…

The wedding day was a long one as guests are invited to attend various ceremonies where they are segregated by gender. The men attend the signing of the ketubah, marriage contract, which needs signatures of 3 witnesses close to the family recognized as Torah (bible) scholars, a guarantor who will cover expenses if necessary and the groom.  Once the ketubah is signed the groom shares a  D’vor Torah (Bible lesson) after which the men have drink and a bite to eat.
The women on the other hand meet and greet the seated bride, her mother and future mother-in-law and her attendants in this case, her sister and future sister–in-law.  During this female reception line, the Bride not only receives the guest’s best wishes but she also bestows a blessing on each guest. It was very touching and sweet.  There is also wine and the same h’ors d’oeuvres as the men.  A fiddler played traditional music as he wandered between the two rooms and the women also had  piano music.

The couple have not seen each other for an entire week before the day so the groom’s anticipation is great as the men eventually enter the women’s room staying apart from the women but to observe the bedecking  (when the Bride is veiled by the groom) after which each father bestows a blessing upon the  Bride. 
                                                 
Future Father in law giving blessing

Father of the bride blessing

Moms securing the veil 
(L to R) Bride's  Father , Groom, Groom's Father, Rabbi 

Now it’s finally time for the  Chupah ( wedding canopy). Natureman insists the Chabad always hold their weddings outside and sure enough out we went on a 25 degree breezy Spring day. Brrr. 



 During the half an hour plus canopy service, the veiled bride circled the groom 7 times after which she was unveiled, there was wine and seven blessings recited as thanks is given to the Almighty.  (Add'l notes and link below.)


The final tradition was the breaking of the glass by the groom’s stomp. The Rabbi proclaimed the last time the groom would be able to put his foot down. ( Jewish humor?)  Everybody shouted ''Mazel Tov'' and we all proceeded back into the warm building for dinner and dancing.


Family pictures were taken as guests picked up their table cards with 'co-ed' table seating arrangements and begun their dinner courses while being entertained by a Jewish rock band. (The Newlyweds disappeared to consummate the marriage.)  

Upon their return a big hoopla announced the  Wedding Couple and then once again genders separate into dancing areas separated by a mehitzah, a cloth screen.  I have to admit the ruckus on the guys's side was definitely louder.  
The wedding couple tease each other over the mehitza (photo by Sherry)
As the groom confessed the next morning his friends and family pulled out all the traditions, dancing with him on their shoulders friends  lifting him up on a chair and table, jumping rope and even throwing him up in a table cloth.  

The women followed suit with the chair and table raising but not the table cloth. Tied together napkins served as a jump rope. Both groups engaged in frenzied dancing until the main course was announced. The betrothed barely ate  before well wishers joined them for photos. And then it was time for a video  before more dancing and guests  entertaining the wedding couple. Besides guests dancing, rolls're juggled, bottles balanced and a fire show. 

video


It was such a joyous simcha (celebration) and where I usually last until the party is over, 7 hours did me in and we called it a night. I slept very well after my first Chabad wedding...

The Happy Newlyweds

There is no doubt it was a memorable day for the Newlyweds as well and their parties albeit a bit calmer will continue for the next week. Wishes for many, many happy years together... bis ein und zwansig ! Hugs.

* Circling seven times signifies Joshua circling 7 x around Jericho until the walls came tumbling down and so the bride walks around the groom so that the 'walls between them will fall and their souls will be united.'
* LInk:Seven Blessings

Friday, March 21, 2014

FOTO FRIDAY: SPRING HOBBY

Happy Spring everyone! 
This week's FOTO FRIDAY is something you think of when you think spring.

I have been driving by this neighbor's putting 'green' all winter and every time I see the flag, I have to smile. Although I personally am not a golfer this neighbor down the road obviously is.  It may be a while until he can find his golf ball unless he already got a hole in one. He should have known better than to use a white ball, right?

Have a spring hobby you are anxiously awaiting? 


Judi obviously has been somewhere other than Wisconsin to snap this pic/ maybe this is from last year. Tulips certainly signal spring! Cheryl's mind is also on blooming plants as  these white flowers are certainly sweet. 



Marti on the other hand looks forward to reading on her deck with a gin and tonic.


Submit a pic so it can be featured on FOTO FRIDAY. We had a lot of great submissions for the last FOTO FRIDAY:Click NEW COLOR: GREEN?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Luck of the Irish?


It's always fascinating how traditions started... so do you know why Corned Beef is a traditional St. Patrick's Day fare?

You do realize that other cultures cure beef, right? Philippines, the Carribbean, Jewish... but the industrial production of it began in the Industrial Revolution (17th-19th C) and it was the non perishable Irish corned beef that was eaten by the British fleets and North American military more than the the Irish due to its cost. It was traded to the French for consumption by its colonists and slave laborers in the Caribbean sugar plantations. Ireland's coastal cities became wealthy due their curing and packing industries. The foreign demand forced the Irish to use prime land for cattle grazing and the usage of less fertile soil and a dependency on the potato crop. (Remember the potato famine???) 

Living out in dairyland I have seen how hard cows are on land and can certainly appreciate the Irish's contribution to our gastronomic pleasure ... 


We certainly consume a lot of corned beef  on St. Patrick's Day, don't we? 

My book group was treated to a Reuben casserole by our month's hostess that was super yummy so I thought I'd share the recipe in case you have any leftovers.

Here tis:

Reuben Crescent Bake


Ingredients: 

Original recipe makes 4 servings

 3/4 c sauerkraut, drained & squeezed dry
 1/3 c Thousand Island salad dressing
 1 (8 oz) tube refrigerated crescent rolls ( Pillsbury®)
 3/4 lb thin-sliced cooked corned beef
 8 slices Swiss cheese
 1 beaten egg white

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). 
Grease an 8x8 baking dish.
Mix together sauerkraut and Thousand Island salad dressing in  bowl. 
Unroll crescent roll dough,  cut in half; place one half of the dough onto floured work surface, pinch perforations of dough closed to make 1 sheet.
Roll dough sheet out to about 12 inches square, and fit the dough into the prepared baking sheet.
Pinch perforations closed on 2nd dough half ; roll out to about 9" square.
Set aside.
Prebake  dough crust in baking dish in preheated oven until lightly browned, (8 to 10 min).
Remove from oven.
Place 4 slices of cheese into bottom of  crust; top with corned beef.
Spread sauerkraut mixture on top of beef.
Lay 4 remaining Swiss cheese slices on top of sauerkraut.
Lay 2nd sheet of crescent roll dough onto filled baking sheet, press  top crust down onto the edges of the dish to seal.
Brush with beaten egg white.
Bake in the oven until cheese is melted and crust golden brown,
(15 to 20 min )
Let stand about 5 minutes before slicing.



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Don't Mess with a Heifer...

A visit to dairy farm in 2012 - Diane's on the far left
My Jazzerbuddy Diane came to coffee today with quite a cow story.  Actually our exercise group has visited her  dairy farm a couple of times...
10 day olds
We all know that it's Diane who's responsible for the calves.     

Through the cold winter she bottle feeds each one among all her other chores.  So she 'really' knows her herd. There are always problem children, calves that have difficulty taking a bottle and  she feels it was one of those very same ones that this story concerns.  

Diane's story took place while she was in with the 20 some 2-year old heifers to give them feed. Usually she enters through a door but winter froze that particular door shut. It's quite a balancing act walking on semi frozen dung... Use your imagination as the ice layer crunches with each step and your boot sometimes stays atop/ enters the muck.  That being said, Diane explained it's important not to spook the group as they could stampede and most important of all you don't want to turn your back on them. She had taken the usual precautions when out of nowhere a heifer must have head butted her as all of a sudden she was flung against the wind barrier wall. She tried to climb the wall but the heifer continued rearing its head upward, Diane kicked her assailant in an attempt to dissuade but alas the pregnant heifer was relentless. Diane managed both with momentum of the butts and her own kicks to propel herself up over the wall. Yet the pen's gate was still some 20 odd feet away for her to be out of the next barbed wire holding pen and there coming 'round the bend was that heifer. Diane somehow managed to escape through the metal gate even as the heifer continued to pursue her snorting all the while. 

The theory is that that particular heifer has some affinity for Diane's husband as the heifer always rubs against him and he thinks it's funny so he rubs her back.  ( BTW there are no bulls on this dairy farm. )

Men BEWARE: NEVER, ever mess with any heifer, much less a pregnant one. 

Diane was darn lucky to have escaped with only bruises and a sprained ankle. We all said it was her Jazzercise that helped her be so limber. Heck, these dairy farm wives are some pretty tough cookies...  I have to wonder if they will be having steak tonight, just saying.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Eggs-actly

A friend commented that she missed hearing about more Life in the End of the Rainbow Valley. Well truth be known winter just doesn't have too much going on besides watching the thermometer, snow fall, birds having dominance issues at the feeders and seeing the wind sculpture get whipped around by gusts of cold air.

What's a girl to do once she's tired of being "cooped up"? Well, go 'to town' of course!

This past month I enjoyed finishing our Alaskan/ Seattle adventure album at a free Cropping Day at American Scrapbooking. I also participated in a couple art programs offered by the city of La Crosse with friend Colleen. 3 free watercolor classes offered at the City Library.  Our teacher, Kay

had just returned from a couple of years in China and shared what she had learned with Chinese brush painting.  
I liked painting the chicks the most.

This past Saturday I learned how to make decorative polymer clay eggs through the City's Parks and Recreation.

                                      What's not to like? 



The most difficult part was choosing our Sculptee colors. After working each color by kneading and rolling it, it was time to make a cane. If interested, I can always share the process of creating a cane. You can see our class eggs shaping up.



Each egg was as  different as their creator...
After placing the cane slices and smoothing them onto the egg surface, we had a lunch break during which Bill, our instructor, took the clay covered eggs home to bake them. Upon our return there was still a lot of sanding to do to create a smooth surface. Buffing was left up to personal preference.

We all coveted each other's eggs. What a terrific way to spend a day outside of the End of the Rainbow Valley and 'eggs-actly' what I needed on a bleak winter's day.... 
                                Spring will soon be here! 
Teacher Bill (l) used to teach Art Therapy in a Psych Unit so he had no problem handling our crew...

Monday, March 17, 2014

How Many Seasons are There in a Year ?

Did you realize the number of seasons differ according to where you live?  Here in the End of the Rainbow Valley there are 6 seasons. 

Count them... Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. OK that's four and I know you've heard of the 5th in Wisconsin, Road Repair.

So what's number 6?                        The sixth is MUD season. 

Yep, that's right MUD season. The meltdown has begun and so has the accumulation of water and as cars trespass these areas on dirt country roads, ruts get deeper and the water and roads gets muddier. 

That standing water might freeze overnight but it's back after things warm up in the a.m. The ground's so frozen there's nowhere for that standing water to go unless gulleys are dug to divert the water.
Natureman and Romeo at work diverting the pooling


Not only is it going to be a bit until the snow is all gone but due to this past winter's extreme cold, the frost is at least 5 feet down so it will take a good while for that frost to come out. 


In the meanwhile the car'll only be clean in town after the car wash but I'll definitely get my money's worth out of my monthly car wash pass. And for right now we'll just have to reconcile ourselves to both a muddy car and garage right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley...