Friday, May 29, 2015


FOTO FRIDAY this week is one of the newest crazes of this century and it's people taking pics of their food, FOOD PORN. I have to admit I am guilty and love it as viewing photographs of past meals definitely evokes memories both gastronomically and personally.

This dessert actually was very recently ingested at The Waterfront out on the patio yesterday viewing the Mississippi in downtown La Crosse. The Limoncello Cheesecake with Blueberry sauce was shared with friend Jean after a yummy lunch of Seared Ahi Tuna on a bed of avocado and chips. The memory evoked was my first taste of Italian Limoncello when I first moved to Milwaukee served in dear friends's home ( Mary Grace and Mark) some 20 years ago. I have kept a bottle of Limoncello in my freezer ever since...

Light fluffy cheese cake with a touch of Limoncello, topped with white chocolate
candied lemons and blue berries. 
How 'bout you? Have a food porn pic to share with a specific memory? Do share. It's part of the fun.

Colleen sent a photo of what she ate at Cinco de Mayo restaurant in Black River Falls.  I am anxiously waiting the story to accompany this fiesta. It was something about a dove tale. Hmm.
High school buddy Anne always makes it a point to stop for a burger at Black Angus while back in Little Rock.  I actually think can smell it now.

And buddies Kaye and Shep should be arrested for the amount of FOOD PORN that comes out of their home kitchen. They both enjoy concocting up wonderful meals. Knocking it out of the park with roasted artichoke with garlic, Kale Caesar salad with croutons and Pecorino and Balsamic glazed salmon all just to celebrate Happy May.

Last Week's :Presentation is Key

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Empowering Women: Conscious Social Change through Mind, Body and Spirit

Anyone who has seen Hotel Rwanda caught a glimpse of the 1994  3 month genocide of 800,000 Rwandans. What we don't know/ hear about is what has happened to the Rwandan survivors.

My women's spirituality group was blessed to hear first hand from one of our newest members, Melissa, who first traveled to Rwanda on a Fulbright scholarship and then joined the group Global Grassroots which not only allows her to visit and live in Rwanda but most importantly to serve Rwandans.   The organization has classes and grants for women to rebuild themselves, their communities and country.  Melissa considers Rwanda her home and her ties run deep. 

The '94 genocide left many women without spouses as the males were either killed or incarcerated. Women became heads of households and single Mothers. A shocking 70% of women were raped and the HIV virus is rampant throughout the country. The mental and physical repercussions are great so women are offered classes concentrating on mind, body and spirit which include hygiene, literacy, language, financial, and even skirt-yoga classes to name a few. Education helps in employability for these women and their children. 

Global Grassroots helps individual applicants complete their micro financing through applications, providing writers if needed to interpret the plan/need. Grants are based on benefitting others. If the project is too big, larger donors are approached (i.e.. the Buffet and Gates families).

Cooperatives/Collectives are formed, knowledge shared, small businesses started, schooling provided for forgotten parts of the society such as ostracized prostitutes and their children who are taught skills such as tailoring, etc... Monies obtained can help with supplies for health clinics, used eyeglass distribution just to name a few. NGO's are instrumental in the rebuilding of a war torn country.

This little one has started her water toting duties.
One of the major projects granted by Grassroots Global in Rwanda is access to water.  The cost of drilling of a well is not cheap and even with government aid, toting water back and forth from the well is an all day affair with youngest children being trained from a very early age. Retention tanks and gutters can be bought with grant monies to gather rainwater during the rainy season. If there is access to water then children can attend school.

There is so much we take for granted in the U.S. Thank you Melissa for giving us a dose of reality. May Rwanda continue to heal and for all us to remember to serve our world community however we can.

Here is a link to learn more about Global Grassroots

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bill to Avoid Future Oil Train Disasters

Rain didn't keep away some 60 community members and city officials from the La Crosse AMTRAK station where Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) held a press release Tuesday morning re: her Crude by Rail Safety Act of 2015 co-sponsored with Sen. Maria Cantwell ( D-WA) Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

Although Congress has voted on regulations requiring new standards for oil tankers, Senator Baldwin is taking brave stances with this bill as she opposes the oil and rail industries profit making.  Very easily she could have said these regulations are enough but instead she chose a more difficult path stating oil transport should be stopped immediately in the unsafe tanker cars until the trains are equipped with the new model cars with thermal shields along with a limit of the volatility of that crude oil cargo. 

Baldwin spoke of the once rare sight of seeing an oil train car to the now constant daily sight of these crude oil trains and the occurrence of 5 U.S. accidents since February. As if on cue, a BNSF oil train rolled through the station during her words. 

The Senator also voiced concern that emergency response teams receive 'specialized' emergency training to insure each responder has been  properly prepared for an oil rail disaster. The Chief was present along with some emergency response staff.  

After Baldwin's words, Maureen Freedland spoke representing herself as a resident as she lives some 200 yards from the track, her neighborhood, and C.A.R.S. (Citizens Acting for Rail Safety) thanking Baldwin and other Wisconsin legislators including Ron Kind, Jennifer Shilling and Jill Billings for their support. The Chief of Emergency Response added a statement and Senator Baldwin fielded questions from both the Press and community members.

Senator Baldwin specifically recognized  CARS member Karen Ringstrom for her efforts and presented Karen a photograph of the endangered tern, a marsh resident taken by
Al explains where the bird was in the marsh
CARS member videographer, 
Al Stankevitz. 
Sen. Baldwin chatted with members of CARS.

Kudos to CARS, our very own grassroots organization who gathered and educated our community and approached Baldwin and other government officials with their research findings regarding the crude oil trains. Their work is also helping other U.S. communities make the oil and train industries accountable.
Thank you from all of us along the Mississippi River and our country. 
CARS group stands with Senator Baldwin :front row l to r: Rich , Sen. Baldwin, Al , Maureen, Carolyn
back row l to r : Nancy, Ralph , Karen , Guy, Irv & Chuck (not present George)

*See what's happening around the country: Monday's Post in Washington 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Military Career in 12 Minutes... OK 13

My 90 year old Father was asked to give a 12 minute sermon this past Friday night to his congregation in Arkansas regarding his participation in the armed forces. Since Natureman and I weren't there, we asked him if he would retell us the same story on Memorial Day.

My Dad attributes his critical/ important decisions based on life experiences and relationships crediting loving parents and close relatives who altho financially burdened, encouraged his educational pursuits.  Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. he was exposed to a diversity of friendships of different religions, skin color and backgrounds. Diversity and 'not tolerance of' helped frame many aspects of his life. 
Attending the oldest high school Erasmus High, he received probably the best education one could have at that time with very high standards and a program called "rapid advance". His top drawer filled with awarded "well done" buttons and his dedication allowed him to finish high school early at age 16. Completion of high standards and regents between city schools placed him in the top 10 % and eligible for a 5 day examination to gain free entrance into Brooklyn College. Testing in the top 3% he enrolled in 3 college science classes.  Since the U.S. was already at war with Germany and it was after Pearl Harbor, one night on a campout with buddies they made a pact to join the armed forces.  

My Dad as a little boy, his father and grandmother
The enlistment age was 18 so his parents had to give their permission even though they were informed that actually he could defer being an only child and also in college at the time. But my grandparents concurred due to their parents' immigration and appreciation to their new homeland.  

So my Dad began his apprenticeship with 26,000 other men as they went through rigorous academic and physical training. 36 were chosen to continue in officer training school where he went to Brown University, then onto a 4 month course at Notre Dame and more intensive physical and academic demands with 800/1200 passing. 
Lieutenant Commander Jerry Sherman

These opportunities afforded my Dad through scholarships, the GI bill and second and third part time jobs to attend 5 institutions of higher learning besides those mentioned, Case Western Reserve and U of Iowa. As the war ended in Sea of Japan on August 14 VJ day, his birthday,  Lieutenant Commander Sherman was in charge of 40 men even though he was the youngest.  

In the conclusion of the sermon my Dad expressed appreciation of his military training and  opportunities and if the need arose again and a 90 year old man could be useful, he would't hesitate to enlist. 

Memorial Day is a day to honor the men and women who have served our country and maybe, just maybe learn more about their sacrifices. This Memorial Day definitely was more personal for us here in the End of the Rainbow Valley.

Monday, May 25, 2015

the Garden gate

We here in the valley really don't have a gate. There actually were 2 gates on the drive to keep cattle in at one time but that was way before I came to the End of the Rainbow Valley and all I know is I wouldn't have liked having to get out of the car to open and shut those gates all the time.

Red 'n white gate was a dump find
A couple of years ago though we actually had a little gate at the vegetable garden's entrance but it wasn't easy to maneuver the cart nor the tiller through its opening so its gate life was shortened. (Natureman had brought it home from the dump one day so no big loss.)

BUT there's one gate I really like and it's located in the small town of Alma about an hour and a half from here. When a nice 70 degree was forecast for Friday, Natureman suggested taking the Miata on a road trip to visit Alma's the Garden gate. He knew he was somewhat safe in my plant purchases since the car's trunk is awfully small.  
How are your flower beds?
Located on the third block of a Main Street corner, the Garden gate's stock is some of the healthiest plants you will see. Each year there are new upcyled planters that can come home with you/ give you ideas of flower combos. 
No end to what can be a planter...

Note purple & pink combo 
Isn't this coal scuttle/hod the cutest filled with succulents?
My favorite plant find at the Garden gate has been a Mexican sunflower called Fiesta del Sol. Now I should know to call ahead to make sure they were out of the greenhouse as they are not the quickest to germinate. Well this year there was a new glitch. You see I am not the only one who yearns for these plants. It turns out country mice really enjoy Fiesta del Sol seed and polished off most of it this winter in their greenhouse except for 5 plants worth which weren't quite ready to bloom. No problem, I knew they would bloom. The stars must have aligned as the lovely assistant, the owner's daughter, offered to do a plant run back home to return with them on her next trip. What a sweetheart! 
My little fairy's name is Alma and she's happy in her new home.

We could fill an hour and a half with lunch and a bit of shopping meanwhile. Hey, you don't have to twist my arm for either. Look at the precious new fairy I found. Notice the birdie lighted on her foot? 
Of course she would need a name... Hmmm.

Halleluyah, upon our return to the Garden gate the Fiesta del Sol plants had arrived AND all my purchases fit in the trunk!  
Fiesta del Sol in foreground in summer of 2014
It's only right to show you what this plant looks like when it blooms.
Here's a pic of the Mexican Sunflower  from last summer. Can you see why this cheery orange bloom is worth a road trip? 

After two days with some sun and rainfall here, a bud's already opening on one of the new plants. It's difficult not to being happy in this magical place we call End of the Rainbow Valley.

Friday, May 22, 2015


FOTO FRIDAY this week plays off the saying "Presentation is Key"/ in this case everything is "picture perfect." Tuesday the Jazzergirls met at a fellow classmate Nancy's after class for coffee and the hostess outdid herself with a gorgeous luncheon.
          It was almost too pretty to eat, but we managed.
What a spread! Tomato pie, cranberry scones, berry torte, chocolate mints,
chicken and egg salad croissants,
mini omelettes, mimi tomato salad with feta and strawberry salad, 
 So have you captured an impressive presentation? Do share.

Colleen is one of those creative folks who makes pastries that are always too artistic to eat. Here's one of her latest creations. Her workmates are always treated to her creativity and probably gain weight during her shifts.

If you missed it, here's last week's FOTO FRIDAY: SOMETHING UNEXPECTED

Thursday, May 21, 2015

We Are All Immigrants

Unless you are Native American, your family immigrated from somewhere else to come to the U.S.  This very fact makes it  difficult for me to understand why so many folks here in this country fear the immigrant. Have we forgotten our own family's story?

See Nancy and Violeta we saved you a spot in the back row...
This month's read for the Happy Bookers, my book group, was Cristina Henriquez's The Book of Unknown Americans, the story within all of us (the majority of U.S. citizens) of coming to this country with dreams of hope. 

The book's vehicle is an apartment complex in a relatively small city in Delaware where these apartment resident families hail from many different Central/South American countries, not the expected setting of a large cosmopolitan city like Chicago or New York City. 

The reader hears the voices of many of these residents of how, when and why they ended up here - their heartache of being homesick, the difficulties each encounter adjusting to a new culture and trying to maintain one's identity, the universality we all share. 

Besides discussing the book, we made it even more personal by sharing an immigrant story of our own family. 

Former chemist, now restauranteur
In fact since we were meeting in the new space of the former Hmong Egg Roll Restauraunt (now Golden Egg Roll), the owner was gracious enough to share his story as a Laotian immigrating in the 70's to the small town of Beaver Dam (outside of Madison) at age 13 without a word of English. There was no ESL (English as a Second Language) program but a tutor hired to come in 2 hours a day to work with the 2 brothers. The rest of his school day was in the regular classroom where he was placed in a lower grade. (5th grade) At the end of each year, he knew more and more of the English language. Five years later his father came to La Crosse with the family due to a job. 

Our group gave the Book of the Unknown Americans a two thumbs up as it touched something familiar.  We have a story within all of us and by sharing it, we all become a bit closer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Lone Survivor's No Longer

As of Monday one lonely spaghetti squash was left sitting by himself on the metal shelf unit in the garage. It had been a long winter watching his friends disappear one by one. He no longer finds himself on that cold shelf as he became part of a new recipe. 

Sad? Not really because he did receive a two thumbs up from Natureman for his dinner contribution and soon new vines will be growing in the newly tilled squash area. 

I also have to admit, I rather preferred the new recipe to the traditional red marinara sauce. So let me share what already has been requested for an encore...

Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin

1 medium spaghetti squash
3 T butter
1 small yellow onion, very thinly sliced
1 t red pepper flakes
1/4 t garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c sour cream
1 c shredded cheddar cheese

Cut spaghetti squash in half and remove seeds.
Place in covered dish with a ¼ inch of water and microwave
10 -12 minutes.
In medium sized skillet over medium heat, add butter,
onions, red pepper, garlic salt, salt and pepper and cook until
onions are brown. 
Using a fork, scrape the insides of the squash and transfer to
small bowl.
Mix together squash, onions, sour cream and half the cheese 
Mix well. 
Transfer mixture to buttered baking dish and top with remain-
ing cheese.
 Bake at 375º for 20-25 minutes. 
Put on broil in the last minute until golden brown.
A definite winner!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Who Knew?

 If you take a look at the treats we enjoyed at an open house on Sunday you just might be able to figure out why we travelled to Houston. Houston, Minnesota that is. Pinterest would be proud of these endeavors especially the realistic foiled wrapped pellet. More about that a bit later...

In fact people journey to Houston from all over the world to visit this establishment.

Anyone have a clue?

This open house with free admission, these owl themed refreshments and informational sessions were all at the International Owl Center. Yep, right on main street in Houston, Minnesota.

We had time to peruse the gift shop and exhibits. I kept thinking about buddy Rachel who loves anything owl oriented. 

Owl art done by  young student visitors donned one large wall alongside the year's photography entries. 

The talk was informative as to the owls's habitat, size, eye and beak color, ear tufts, general shape and bird calls.
L to R: Long eared Owl, Great Horned Owl, Screech Owl, Saw Whet, Barred Owl. Barn Owl
Four live owls live at the center and ended up there either as a result of accidents/research. 

Alice , a Great Horned Owl, Bubo virinianus, fell out of her nest as a chick in 1997 and permanently injured her left wing.

Rupert           Ruby
Two Great Horned Owl siblings live here too as they were hatched in captivity as part of a vocal study.

 And there's Timber, a Barred Owl. Timber's siblings met their demise after a chainsaw in 2012 cut down the tree where they were nesting. His siblings were decapitated but he just got scalped and survived, later injuring a wing. What a story, eh?

Did you realize - owls take cat naps although they are considered nocturnal? Ear tufts are feathers and their ears are located lower on the sides of their heads? Owls also don't have teeth so dinner is swallowed whole and since bones and fur can't be digested the owl must regurgitate these remains (called a pellet).  Remember the aluminum foil treat that looks like a turd, pretty realistic, huh? At the center the owls feast on gophers.

If you look closely you can see a fine comblike feathering along the outer owl's wings feathering. This aerodynamic feature allows the owl to swoop down quietly upon its prey. Cool.

Owls are starting to change territories and interbreed and researchists are trying to figure out why. Some regions actually no longer have owl populations. Is it deforestation, mining/ pesticides affecting food sources? 

The Owl International Center is doing good work to educate and share their research with others. It was an interesting outing for any age. You should come visit and help support the owls.

Here's a youtube video of how different the vocalizations are for different species of owls.  Who knew? 
Take a listen: Owl Calls

* Special thanks to Kathy for posting this event on FB. See another positive for social media! 

For more info: Int'l Owl Center