Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Silent Treatment...

Since I was less than keen to drive into downtown Chicago on a Friday a.m., we boarded a commuter train from a northern suburb southbound to Union Station. Upon my insistence to not get on where all the passengers were waiting to board on the platform, we entered a different car. 

We were travelling with backpacks and a cooler, appearing to be headed to a concert rather than a weekend downtown so we would need some extra space to stash our things rather than trying to sit with all the luggage under our legs. 

We moved a couple of times seeking out the most space in the car. Debated whether to go upstairs, nixed. Finally, Natureman sat down in a senior seat as there was some space next to his seat and I sat across from him. When it was apparent that noone needed the seat next to me, he joined me and we exchanged some comments about the journey. 

At the very first stop the lady in front of us turned around and in a rather nice, hushed voice said, " I don't know if you are aware but there are 2 quiet cars during rush hours and you are in one of them." "Sorry, we had no idea," I responded. She added, " Well, you are not bothering me, but you may be bothering someone else." Natureman and I exchanged glances, me with a questioning look as to whether he could be quiet the duration of the trip. It was a very quiet hour... We finally found a little sign at one end of the car that designated the car as "quiet."

I had to laugh to myself because this was the first time I had ever been with Natureman in 12 years that he didn't utter a word. There was some throat clearing but not one single word. I guess there is a first time for everything... Hey, we all got the silent treatment.

Apparently after a trial period on Rock Island Rail, Chicago's Metra adopted the quiet cars during rush hours on June 6th 2011 to provide passengers who need to work/sleep to do so without distractions. It is always the second car from the front and the end of the train. Just our luck I chose the Quiet car.  

Do you think we should try this at home? 

Nah, big city people need their quiet.  Some thing I don't take for granted in the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Flightless Birds?

I have a feeling there are a lot of chickens running around without wings as I made 3 different recipes with 9 dozen chicken wings this past week for the birthday party.  Asian, Bar-B-Que and Lemon Pepper wings.  

Although all were complimented, the latter, the Lemon Pepper got the most recipe requests so since I didn't write down who wanted it, you all will have the opportunity to try this recipe. It is tasty.

Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings

Here's what you'll need for



Canola oil, for frying
36 chicken drumettes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Seasoning salt
2 T chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 c yellow mustard
3 c all-purpose flour
2 lemons, juiced
Lemon-pepper seasoning

Lemon Aioli Dipping Sauce:
1 (30-ounce) jar mayonnaise
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot halfway with oil and preheat the oil to 350 degrees F.

Wings: Season the chicken with salt, pepper and seasoning salt, to taste. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and coat the chicken completely with yellow mustard. Toss the chicken in the flour until completely covered. Add the drumettes to the oil, in *2 batches, and fry until cooked through and they start to float, about 10 minutes.

Add the lemon juice to a large bowl. Carefully remove the chicken pieces from the oil and toss in the lemon juice,( I put the lemon juice in a small spray bottle and spritzed the cooked wings) then sprinkled them with lemon pepper seasoning. Transfer drumettes to a serving dish and serve with the dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce: Mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use. (This makes a lot of sauce.)

*Personally I don't fry that much any more and wanted the drummies crispier so I turned up the oven to 400 and baked the second set of drummies until they were a darker crispier coating.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Solar UP!

WTC (Western Technical College) here in La Crosse served as one of the hosts/overnight stops for the American Solar Challenge for the 23 university solar car racing teams competing in the race which ended in Minneapolis, Minnesota yesterday. 

The cars departed yesterday morning from La Crosse.

This circuit race of the Americas included 9 stops besides days of scrutineering, qualifying and the race.

Teams arrive to be scrutineered after months of designing and building their solar cars.

For three days these cars are inspected to see if they comply mechanically, electrically and dynamically with the rules and safety requirements. Then the drivers and teams are also randomly assessed. Can they get out of their cars unassisted in 10 seconds? Besides braking, turning and stability, the drivers's experience  plays an equally important qualification.

Afterwards, another three days qualify teams after a lap endurance race like the Grand Prix. There's a minimum number of required laps for each driver.  Both the car's stability and driver's ability are judged before the car is allowed to go on the cross country race.

Next is the race where the cars will travel 7 states in 8 days. 23 teams participated this year from around the world.

Some interesting facts:

*Solar cars are very similar to electric cars but instead of using a   battery charger utilize energy from the sun.

*Their unusual appearance is to prevent aerodynamic drag.

*Although some cars clocked in at 100mph, local speed limits must observed and the average is 60 mph.

* There is ventilation for the drivers but no comforts such as AC, power locks/windows as these would consume energy and the car's performance. 

*Solar cars do carry batteries that can be used to store solar energy for cloudy days.

*Most cars have a small electric motor instead of a internal combustion model. Peak power rating's at less than 10 hp and motor efficiency is over 10%.

* These solar cars are not for sale but for demonstration and racing

The race days all have the same schedule.

7 am : Batteries released after being impounded the previous evening. Solar charging begins.

9 am  Green flad. Cars depart in one minute intervals.

Next 9 hours: Drive. Stopping in sunny spots to recharge/switch drivers/ fix issues and resume driving. Support vehicles refuel, observers swapped, route updates given, public viewing after staying allotted time. They're off.

6pm: Race ends. Solar charing begins. (45 min time allowance to find a safe place to stop.)

8pm  Batteries impounded with the observer not to be touched until the next day.

Until morning work can be done on the car, lodging and hopefully sleep...

I found the entire program fascinating and encouraging for the future alternative energy possibilities especially regarding our transportation.

Congrats to all the participants and good luck in your future endeavors as our planet depends on you...  even if we in the End of the Rainbow Valley won't get to use a solar powered car who'd ever thought there would be electric, hybrid and alternative vehicles on the market today?  

* All info and pics from the American Solar Challenge brochure.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Too Much Theatrical Exposure...

We just returned from a Birthday Weekend in the Windy City.  Chicago besides being a city with amazing architecture and a lot to see and do, great entertainment, wonderful  theater, etc...  

Chicago also has a lot of people, both residents and visitors especially in their downtown area. Today's entry deals about a young Canadian couple.

Those on the14th floor of our hotel if they didn't sleep through it, were witness to this couple's domestic disturbance.  I was awakened early Saturday am by raised voices of a man and woman, there was crying, some pleading, more yelling... and cross my heart, it sounded like the couple was in my room. It was that loud and intense. I lay listening to the words to determine if this argument was way too volatile, debating as to what should I do when finally the male voice became quieter and more reasoning and calmed the female.  Then silence. I mentioned the disturbance the next day to my kids and it also had awakened my son down the hall.  Natureman, who I had thought was sleeping, said he heard it too but once it calmed down, he knew it wasn't in the danger zone.

The next night it happened again. I guess some people have a 3 am pee wake up time but these two come home from the bars at that time and their arguments ensue. Once again, the same argument about flirting and cheating rants on, only this time not only do the voices continue flinging the f* bombs back and forth but the intensity has changed and I am ready to call the desk when one of them, slams the door and storms out down the hallway. Good, go cool off. Quiet. I check the clock and am just dozing off as I was so rattled when not even a half an hour later, whoever had left, returns, obviously too soon as the screaming begins again and the argument is escalating and besides a fist banging on a table, there are loud bumps and things being thrown against the walls and pleading to stop. Now this ending is not going to be good and I turn on the light and call the desk. The recording puts me on hold... On hold? there might not be time... hurry up. Finally, a way too cheery voice answers and I explain there is an out of control argument next door and it is worse than the night before. She assures me security will be sent. It seems like an eternity, no guard, and there is quiet next door. But it is short lived and once again the yelling starts up, followed by a loud knocking interrupting the two. 

I hear the entire conversation as our doors butt up next to each other. The security guard states that there have been numerous disturbance calls regarding the yelling coming from the room, is everything ok? " Oh I am sure you have," says the heated male voice.  "This is what she f*ing does, she starts screaming and crying and runs off... she's probably going to walk the streets barefoot now if I don't go find her." His voice is becoming less angry now. "Officer she's my wife, we got married in October. We are from Toronto. Well, we had been drinking but this hasn't ever happened before. ( Yeah I'm thinking, what about last night?) "We just drank too much." The security guard suggests getting another room. The door closes, opens, shuts, there's a phone call explaining the predicament. Closet noises, hangers, door opens, closes. Quiet.

I lay awake trembling. That was way too close for comfort. This definitely wasn't on my bucket list as there are some experiences I would rather not have. These two definitely need serious counselling. This is one kind of drama that shouldn't ever be experienced even in the theatre district... Way too much drama.

All I have to say is say is boy am I glad to be back to the peace and quiet right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Friday, July 25, 2014


FOTO FRIDAY this week is all about ingenuity. What do you have around the house/you've seen that you thought why didn't I think of that? Share some ingenuity from your life...

The bucket on the left was laden with cherry tomatoes

An overnight visit to college friend Adrienne's suburban Chicago home we   experienced our first homegrown tomatoes of the season and they were beauts. Growing upside down by her patio wall, not only do they look good but were delish in our dinner salads. They obviously love where they are growing.  
Drill holes in the container's bottom, insert plants from outside the bottom in, add soil, water from above and 
         VOILA, your very own container garden! 

Natureman took some gathered rocks and created his very own stone sculpture. 

Can someone remind me what these are called?

Colleen truly up'cycled'  bicycle parts for her new garden sculptures. Aren't these the greatest? Some people are so talented!

Last week's FOTO FRIDAY was about parks. If you didn't get to see Judi's addition about a proposed park, take a gander:FOTO FRIDAY:PARKS  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Skunked, Again?

Anticipating cooler temps during the evening hours Natureman cranked open the windows. I requested the ceiling fans as there's some pyschological advantage to even warm air circulating in my mind. I also think it confuses/ blows gnats/ mosquitoes off course. 
Just my theory and I'm sticking to it.

Anyhow as I was plopping down to grab my ZZZ's, all of a sudden there's an odor. And I'm not talking a pleasant one. I look over at Natureman and said in a disgusted tone, "That's really awful." "What?" he oh so innocently replies.  I retort, "Seriously that smells just like a skunk."  Wounded, he asks if I think he could smell that bad and adds, "Maybe that is because it is a skunk."  Oh no! It dawns on me the dog had just had a serious barking session not long before.  You've never seen me move so fast as I jumped out of bed cranking the windows shut. 

I can't believe one of the things to do on my agenda when I get up in the am is to bathe a shedding stinky dog. You'd think Romeo would have figured out by now that slow moving black and white looking cat is really a skunk.  

-See I told you it's not always so peaceful right here in the 
                End of the Rainbow Valley... 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blessed in So Many Ways...

Life can turn on a dime and mine changed from being a suburban housewife and mom to a rural empty nester 12 years ago.  Natureman has enabled me to have so many new people in my life. Those Coulee factions were well represented at last night's b-day celebration...

Some 20+ Jazzerbuddies were there...
Folks from my work days at UW-L and Viterbo, many of my Jazzerbuddies, the Happy Bookers, my spirituality buds (both Rosh Chodesh and synagogue), friends met through mutual friends, and of course people I met through Irv. All of these factions were able to mingle last night. 

AND how does an asportual non-beer drinker end up at a Packer Sports bar for her birthday?  I purchased raffle tickets as a donation to a Relay for Life benefit last summer and I won not one but two of the 18 possible raffle prizes. The phrase I never win anything now has been deleted from my sayings...  One prize was the 1/2 barrel beer party at Glory Days in La Crosse. Through word of mouth, Facebook and the internet we gathered to mark my new decade. 

I feel so blessed in so many ways... 

Here's to a new decade and many more happy celebrations from a gal so content with life with my Natureman in the End of the Rainbow Valley... 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Emptying the Bucket...

As I approach this special birthday and enter a new decade the realization hit me that not only is time shorter to accomplish the bucket list but good health is not always a given.  So many friends are starting to have health issues so I feel blessed that this past month afforded me the opportunity to check off 2 more items on my list. 

If I finish my list, does that mean my days are numbered? Oh yeah, it just means I am making the most of them.

Well, I feel super lucky to have had some calm waters to try out 2 'first' new boating adventures. You may have caught my posting about my first kayaking experience on Cedar Lake after the Green Bay trek. 

Then, not long thereafter we took a quick jaunt up to the Eagle River area.  The sun blessed us before our departure so I tried out paddle boarding with the expert assistance of the Sugar Camp paddle boating instructor who BTW has only had 2 students fall in. 

I had an excellent instructor.
Success getting on the board. 
Success going from the fours to to the knees.

And I am up...

 Once my toes relaxed and figured out that they didn't need to do the death grip to the board, it was much more enjoyable.  And off I went... 


Monday, July 21, 2014

Stockholm or Bust...

My book group, The Happy Bookers, had their annual get away this past weekend. We spent a day filled with shopping, wineries and camraderie in small towns along the Mississippi. Our destination eventually would be Stockholm, WI, home to the 41st art fair which draws visitors from both sides of the river.

Our first stop was Fountain City where we enjoyed our morning brew on Brones' new porch with a lovely view.  They even ran out to get bananas for my drink. Now that's service.

Fountain City's Brones Bike Shop and World Class Coffee
(L-R )Back row  Susie, Monica, yours truly, Mary, Connie
Front : Nancy and Sally

Stops also included Alma shops and Danzinger Winery where we were interviewed by an Eau Claire reporter who was writing an interest story about the Wine Trail... 

Stay tuned for that publication as I might even be quoted.

For those that know me well, I am not a big drinker so even the tastings added up to more that I probably drink in a year.  I am one of those who gets tired after a glass of wine rather than livening up the party. 

Thank goodness to the convertible ride which kept me awake even after lunch at Nelson's Creamery and more wine at Villa Belleza Winery.

We so enjoyed the front porch and watching the world go by.
The day's final stop was the lovely, small town of Stockholm where if you blink, you've missed it. 

Our lodging was located on the main drag in the recently remodelled Historic Stockholm Hotel where we occupied their six bedrooms/ 2 bath in addition to the fully equipped kitchen, cozy living room and large dining space and terrific front porch where we held our lively book discussion. (This month's read was the Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro for those interested how appropo as we would be attending the art show the next day.)

 A nice early evening breeze kept the gnats at bay and when sunset came and the gnats returned, we moved inside to continue both the lively discussion and light dinner of yummy appetizers and dessert. 

Another gorgeous summer sunset...

We opted to not use the ready firepit out in the great backyard and instead enjoyed a rousing game around the dining table.  We are quite a competitive bunch and we probably should have closed the front door as our laughter ran late. It was the kind of laughter I remember from bunking parties (sleep overs) from much younger days. We probably kept the town awake. SORRY Stockholm.

Our final activity of the day was to list 3 of the day's positives without repeating anybody else's and how each made us feel. 
 There was even prompting to help be more descriptive with those feelings... (Yep, this is a tough group.)

What really mattered was how content I felt to be surrounded by 6 girl friends who have have now become part of my new life.

Who knew I'd ever be grateful for having to read a book? 
(BTW in case you're interested next month's pick is Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Boudain.)

We missed our youngest 8th member, Violetta who we hope finished her dissertation and can join us next year ...

Friday, July 18, 2014


FOTO FRIDAY's topic this week is a result of our usage of wonderful parks.

So do you have a photo you'd like to share taken in a park?

The following was taken in Riverside Park where Judi caught us enjoying the Old School Variety Show after a nice picnic dinner.  We are sated both gastronomically, culturally and socially.

 It was a  lovely evening performance... Do share a park pic.

Judi added more to the 'park' theme with a photo and her interesting words regarding the proposed American Memorial Park Tinian whose legislation's pending and very unlikely to pass).

"It was the most moving place we've ever been. Runway Able is part of the airstrip at North Field where the two flights of Enola Gay and Bockscar embarked. They, of course, are the planes that dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

The island of Tinian has a population of around 3500 today but after the U.S. captured it from the Japanese in 1944 it was quickly turned into one of the largest airbases of WW II with over 40,000 airmen, seabees and marines.

The whole north end of the island is basically abandoned now. We rented a motorbike and headed north. For over an hour, we never saw a house or person. Apparently some kind of front end loader drives through monthly to try to keep the jungle from encroaching on everything but we still came to several dead-ends where vegetation had taken over. The area is beautiful and haunting. We felt amazed, saddened and solemn. 

In a way, we hope the legislation doesn't pass but that it remains underdeveloped but discoverable to people who are interested in the amazing history of North Field." 

Colleen submitted such a great shot we may just have to go exploring at High Cliff Park and the swing bridge in Galesville. Natureman has pointed out the park to me but we have yet to visit the trails and this bridge. Thanks for the push.

Last week's FOTO FRIDAY: FUNNY CAPTIONS only encouraged one addition but hey we'll take whatever we can get. Thanks Queen Jester. Click :HERE
 AND remember, it's never to late to add...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Daze

As long as the skies had cleared, we had a forecast of a lovely 70 degree day to enjoy and we packed it full of summertime activities.

Natureman and I arranged to meet in town after I had my Jazzercise class. We would go on a bike ride. I actually thought we would head out to Trempeleau since we haven't been on that bike trail in a couple of years but instead we headed to the marsh trail which starts by the International Friendship Gardens. We did a quick stroll through the gardens first and of course everything was lush after Nature has been so generous watering.

The biking was cut short though as the marsh had spilled over its banks due to those rains and sludge and debris closed the trail. It was not a pretty sight and disappointing to say the least since the air was crisp and bugfree. Perfect bikeriding weather. I realized Natureman had ulterior motives for choosing this trail as apparently the train tracks cross the marsh. AHA. He wanted to check it out. Apparently there might be an open hearing about the impending disaster and destruction of this wildlife ... 

It wasn't difficult to imagine this sludge overflow as Bakken oil.

Anyhow we had to turn back and our biking was cut short but actually we had a bit of exercise together and fresh air.

Home we went to have a light lunch, rest a bit after some planting and serious weeding before we headed back downtown for me to pick up my repaired car and do errands while Natureman attended his regional planning meeting. We met up afterwards back at Riverside Park for a picnic dinner and community concert "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." 

What a delightful night to be among the community, enjoy good music  with about 900 folks with 130 marchng in the kids's parade.

After the last selection  'Fantasy of Flight,' it was home we flew after a wonderful full summer day... 
Take a look at the sunset that took us home along the Mississippi to the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Appreciating the Little Things...

I don't know about you but we've been experiencing daily rainfall. Though I am thankful to not have to water every day, I am a bit sick of that precipitation and greyness.

It hasn't helped the bug situation too much either as they keep hatching. Everybody's complaining about them, not just me.  But the good thing is if another front is blowing in, the wind's strong enough that those pesty biting gnats are dispersed. OK never mind about those bugs. Winter didn't kill them nor the mosquitoes off is all I'm saying.

Today it took most of the day before the sun broke through all the clouds. But even in late in the day one really appreciates seeing blue skies with as much cloud coverage and rainfall we've received this past month. 

As everyone in this area will attest, the clouds have really been phenomenal. AND the colors, unreal. 

Are they gorgeous or what?

If it's going to rain so much it's nice when a rainbow/two are thrown in for good measure.  Here's that rainbow from Saturday night (thanks Cari for the pic) which of all things I couldn't see here in the End of the Rainbow Valley. You mean it can end other places? I am shocked...



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Paradigm: How Cool is Cool?

I have to be honest. I thought you would be reading about our trip to the butcher to retrieve the quarter of a friend's cow that's going into our freezer in the End of the Rainbow Valley. Maybe another day. 

Something unexpected happened en route back home. Parked in front of the Tippy Toe, there do you see it in the side mirror?

A 1936 Chrysler Airflow! Who wants to talk about a dead cow when a beauty like this is sitting in Chaseburg (pop 306) no less. "Stop!" I exclaimed and Natureman didn't argue. He knows about cars. And although he knew about this model had never seen one in person. Natureman insisted I had to get out to take a closer look.  

This is one of the first stream lined models but had the misfortune of coming off the lines during the Depression. OOPS is right. Really bad timing. Not a success and not many were made.

We oohed and aahed at all the details like the fender skirt, the 
insides - ample leg room, nice upholstery, the dashboard with the key on the passenger side a button starter on the driver's...

the white walls ....

               the lights...
rear tail light

An inline eight...
The Airflow's proud owner joined us gladly filling us in on all the details... 
Special touches such as the way the doors closed with the efficiency of a jewelry box, (his simile, not mine) And they did close softly with ease and the nifty front hood support arm mechanism held the hood in place with a smooth catch, another bar adjusts the fenders, the bumper's visible spring like support. Ingeneous as anything bumping into this fender might just be bounced back a half a block. And the windows... 

The windows were very unique and really cool as the front window louvered outwards. Talk about air flow/ the first AC!

The side window had a small window within it and could operate independently from the entire window but then could fold back together so that the entire window can be rolled down.

The Airflow is not exactly ecofriendly consuming gas at about 10 miles /gallon but hey if you have $50K today for this gorgeous vehicle, I bet you can afford the gas.

I know you'll enjoy this video as much as I did. How cool is cool? Click on : Chrysler's AirFlow