Thursday, July 30, 2015

FOTO FRIDAY: Staying Fit and Healthy as a Family

FOTO FRIDAY wasn't difficult to figure out  this week as La Crosse Jazzercise celebrates our instructor Debbie Dahl Schultz's 35th teaching anniversary. She has enabled one of my favorite Jazzercise families to be able to exercise. Four generations attended coffee at Java Vino recently. Great Grandma Sara has been not only participating long enough for both her daughter Paige and granddaughter Megan(now a Jazzerciser instructor) to join her but we're anxiously awaiting the newest family member Grace to start jumping around with us. Isn't that terrific?

Do you exercise together as a family? Do share a pic.

Did you see last week's theme: TOASTING ? Take a look and submit photos anytime to any of the FOTO FRIDAYS.

What's for Dinner? Improving Community with SOUP

Almost forgot to take the garden soup pic...
Tonight I experienced my first La Crosse Soup. It was as wonderful as friends had told me.  But little did I know how great the soup could be as well as the power of word of mouth.  Tonight's crowd was may be even triple the 2 previous months. Also different tonight were the folks who made the speeches as these were sponsors and organizers of the event for this project and for the crowd gathered behind the coffee house, the Root Note, to listen to four ideas to make La Crosse a better place to live.

Folks are asked to bring their own bowl (smart move: no dishwashing for the folks at the Root Note), make a donation of at least $5 for their bowl of soup, a piece of bread and a cookie and listen to four pitches of possible community projects. 

The rules are after each 4-minute pitch, 4 questions could be raised and answered and then everybody voted on their favorite project of the 4 ideas. The pitch with the highest number of votes wins the total cash collected from both the soup and beer sales and extra donations/ matching challenges. In fact, one of the sponsors asked how many had ridden their bikes to the event and for every cyclist, a dollar was donated. Very cool indeed, encouraging cycling to the downtown event. 42 folks had ridden their bikes this evening so an extra $42 was added to the kitty.

I'm still trying to figure out the significance of the number 4. Perhaps someone will give me some insight and I can enlighten all of us. But, ok 4 is the magic number and easy to remember.

The presenters stood on one of the building's fire escape platforms, microphone in hand to present their pitches.

First up was Michelle representing the idea "Comfort for Coulee Kids" whose focus is on older kids, young pre teens/ teens who are overlooked during hospitalization. Soft toy animals aren't as appropriate for this population so start up money balls in wards of behavioral health with perhaps Nerf balls, I-pad stands, I-pads, I-tune cards, etc... You get the idea. A FaceBook page would be set up along with Children's Miracle Network to continue raising funds after the initial start up.  

 Second pitch (Mario) spoke about the usefulness of a stationary bike ( $3900 needed) for the Y and the Livestrong Foundation's program called Partners in Recovery, a physical and well being program . One upcoming fundraiser is a brat fry to help cover the costly bike.


Andre's Third pitch was for the "Reduction of Pet Adoption Fees" at the Humane Society to allow more pets to have homes outside the facility.  He spoke of his adopted pets and the exorbitant cost associated with pet adoption.

Corrie and Dane
And last but not least, Corrie and Dane, two owners of both the Root Note and The Mint proposed the expansion of the Root Note backwards to create an "outdoor space" with plans for Beer Garden to foster more community outside. First a fence would be needed.

And the winner of the $1600 plus dollars went to... Can you guess?
There are only four possibilities. 

For which one would you have voted? I'll add the answer after you have had a chance to vote.

I can't wait for August's proposals and to see which one takes home the starter money. What a terrific community project and gathering!

* The Root Note won the evening's votes to convert their alley space to a Beer garden. A nice thank you for small business owners who give so graciously to our community.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Life's A Bunch of Broken Pottery Shards

I know I've mentioned in the past about one of my Milwaukee neighbors, Mary Nohl, one of Wisconsin's leading folk artists who made cement sculptures. Mary in her 80's lived across the street from me so I have been fascinated in the cement art form for a while. So... 
when my Arkansas Master Gardener mentor, Janet, posted in her blog about an excursion to Wouterina Cement Sculpture Gardens recently during her attendance at a Youth Gardening Conference in the Twin Cities, I knew I had to go see this 3 acre perennial cement sculpture garden.

I checked on line and discovered Wouterina gardens had limited summer hours being only open for tours twice/week on Wednesdays and Saturdays until August 1st so my window of opportunity to go was very narrow. My RV'ing garden loving, artistic friend Cheryl was presently living parked in the Twin Cities so I knew she'd be game if she was available.

What I hadn't read carefully until I looked for directions was that a minimum of 5 guests were needed to have a tour.  Uh oh. Thank goodness for texting and email as I set upon the task of finding 3 more buddies last minute who might enjoy this field trip 20 minutes north of Red Wing, Minnesota ( 2 1/2 hrs from La Crosse)  Luck was with me as I found 3 other available adventuresome souls and off we went on our excursion Wednesday am unaware of the true beauty that awaited us. 

the first water pump
These cement sculpture gardens are the result of the work of Wouterina, an artist of Dutch descent who found herself originally renting this farmland parcel in Beldenville, WI some 28 years ago (ya know those '70s back to the landers) living without water/ electricity. Sound familiar, Natureman?After 3 years a water line was dug from a neighboring farm and the following day a trench into the house's basement and VOILA running water. Wouterina's rent went up to a whopping $125/month. And, eventually Wouterina (Riana) also persuaded the farmer to sell her the 3 acres.

Water was transformational in many ways especially in Riana's art when she started focusing on cement sculptures. 

About a 100 whimsical figurines and mosaic cement works dot her manicured trails and garden beds. 

Around every bend are surprises to delight the visitor. Birds, fish, serpents, statue of liberty, mermaid, people, planters, bird houses among so many others ...
There are also numerous seating possibilities to appreciate the botanical environs.  Each more whimsical than the last.

Unique sheds with oodles of character dot the acreage along with Riana's charming abode with a large front porch filled with painted wooden and metal porch furniture and her tobacco barn studio. Even an outhouse is filled with old National Geographics for reading material. 
Wouterina gives workshops on the premises in her art studio. Her sculptures aren't solid but formed around a metal mesh. By looking underneath you can see it's hollow, making it much easier to move around... Like plants if you don't like it in one place you can move it.
We had such a great visit in this artist's garden oasis in the middle of farm country. 

Admission was $10/person and I wish we could have stayed longer but we needed to get back home. You can rest assured, I will return to this magical place.

I took over a 100 photos and it wasn't easy deciding which ones to share with you. It's that good and I kept seeing more that I missed. 

Thanks so much for sharing Janet as I might have lived forever in this area and never come across  this artist's gem in the Wisconsin farmland without your post!

 Natureman asked if I'd be interested in learning the technique. Riana would travel the 2 1/2 hours if I got 10 students at $225 ea. Interested? Life can be just a bunch of broken pottery shards made into something very unique. Wink, wink. You know I'm game.

*Wouterina, like my Milwaukee neighbor, is thinking of leaving this legacy to the Kohler Museum in Sheboygan. They did a beautiful job of restoring Mary Nohl's art and having a full time docent/custodian live on site. See link:Mary Nohl BTW the neighbors lost their battle.

Monday, July 27, 2015

It's All Greek to Me

Last Sunday was the 35th annual St. Elias Mediterranean Celebra- tion in La Crosse. Originally the fest was held in a nearby pavilion in Copeland Park but when it outgrew the pavilion,  it moved to the  Oktoberfest grounds farther south in down town La Crosse. Due to a myriad of reasons, size, attendance, monetary considerations and specifically construction this year, the fest moved home to its church grounds. After the church purchased a neighboring house and razed it, there was new space perfect for tent seating to enjoy the middle eastern cuisine.  It is also definitely a plus to be able to tour St. Elias and learn about its history.

Father D. who has been at St. Elias for 5 years led hourly church tours and  introduced us to the local Eastern Orthodox Christianity community which has been present in La Crosse since the early 1900's. Originally folks met in individuals's homes. But with the increasing number of Syrians and Lebanese arriving to the area in those days,  Greek, Lebanese, Serbian and Russian as well as Syrian 40+ families joined the church which was hand dug in 1912.  Since the Antiochian and Greek Orthodox have the same divine liturgy and building took a while, holidays and life events took place in the Greek Orthodox church in nearby Rochester. In fact St. Elias is Antiochian Orthodox while a Malachite Orthodox church was a couple blocks farther north. With the westward movement many families as well as their Priest left for California since many had been wine makers.  This church community and building were  restored in the '70's. Today, the Twin Cities is the closest parish and  St. Elias's 40+ congregants are a combination of many different ethnic backgrounds.

The upper icons have been refurbished by one of the congregants
Stunning gold leaf icons fill the walls of the sanctuary. Icons are depictions of Christ's life, His mother, the patriarchs of the Old Testament, the apostles and the saints. 

A curtain was replaced by a wall on which these icons hang in a prescribed order. Behind the doors is the altar with the holy sacrament vessels and can only be entered by the priest. It was very interesting to learn about the division of the Churches.

Grilling chicken k-bobs
In the lower level of the church meals were being assembled as well as a large home baked pastry sale.  Outside meats were being grilled. There a 140 some pound local lamb and chicken k-bobs added to the aroma in the air.  

grilled lamb started at 4 am , carved outside

 In addition to the lamb/chicken k-bob dinners that were served with tzadiki sauce (yogurt and cucumber sauce), rice pilaf and Mediterranean salad and pita, there were vegetarian choices such as felafel, salad sampler plates. Fresh deep fried cinnamon donuts also were available. 

Church youth singing about St Elias
With picture perfect weather it was a great afternoon to listen to music, watch folk dancing and enjoy the festivities with the community. 

The St. Elias Mediterranean celebration is a terrific event for all ages and truly a gift to the community.  

Perhaps next year you will put it on your calendars for next July! 

Friday, July 24, 2015


FOTO FRIDAY Every day we have something to toast but I'm especially happy for the toasts this week to celebrate my daughter's engagement last Sunday. Since I am not with the couple, friends have continued to help me toast this wonderful news.

Here my spirituality group (Rosh Chodesh) at our annual End of the Rainbow Valley Salad Dinner raise their goblets to toast the engagement of Lori and Evan with a big Mazel Tov!

                                As the song in Fiddler says: 
               "A blessing on your heads Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov!"

I am sure you all have a photo of a special toast to share. Do. 

Pam shared her 2012 retirement party toast from teaching. It was a great party. Pam had started teaching in the early '70s.

That'll make quite a somore.
Congrats to Colleen and Eric as they celebrated their 28th anniversary toasting these ginormous marshmallows in Perot Park August 1st. Colleen is quite the artist and decided to add her over sized skewers to their park scene. You know that neighborhood competiveness between fellow campers... 
Nice toast you newlyweds!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

All Aboard

 Saturday was a hot summer day especially for us in the Coulee. (pronounced Cool- i.e.) Ironically not so 'cool' temps  (low 90's) in spite of the previous night's thunderstorm which really did remove some of the humidity. 

But the heat didn't stop folks from checking out the Dragon Boat races and nearby Rail Fair in Copeland Park in La Crosse. 

Parking was at a premium with the two events coexisting (the police were busy writing out tickets for folks who chose to ignore the no parking signs) SO little ones did have to walk a ways. But the end result was worth it as families could enjoy visiting with train aficionados and retired rail road engineers along side the Mississippi. 

Adults had a $5 entrance fee but kids 12 and under were free. This admission charge helps towards maintenance and restoration of the La Crosse Short Line. 

The Rail Fair is said to be one of the Tri State's largest one day Railroad Hobby Sale, Model Railroad Flea Market & Swap Meet with vendors from 6 states and where attendees could learn about the area's rail heritage. There was even a set up for folks to experience sending telegraph messages to and from the Grand Crossing Depot. Very cool.

Grand Crossing Depot
I wasn't super keen about spending time shopping for any rail road paraphernalia so I just took a couple of photos in the pavilion area. Here, vendors gladly visited with interested parties. There was a lot to look at on some 250 + tables of train

merchandise. All scales of miniature trains could literally be seen moving in the pavilion.

Kids's eyes lit up seeing the trains and hearing the train whistles. Grown up kids were having a pretty great time themselves.

In High School I worked in a hobby store and we had a nice train section. I learned a bit about different gauges and die hard train guys who would come in weekly to talk about and add to their collections and models. 

Some interests become life long hobbies and the pavilion certainly was filled with a lot of train enthusiasts on Saturday. It's always fun to be around folks who are passionate about their hobbies and these train guys are a very special breed. It's difficult for their enthusiasm to not be contagious. All aboard.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

MIA, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Date:             Sunday, July 19th, 2015

Crime scene: chicken coop run
Time:             between 11am and 2 pm

  *white feathers strewn inside chicken coop pen

*chicken wire pulled outward exposing 
*clump of feathers immediately outside pen          

*missing 1 araucana chicken 
     (surprisingly not Hop-A-Long)

*other chickens not leaving inside of coop

Facts: Living in the country one knows there are all types of predators. Usually the ever companionable dog Romeo takes his job seriously and is a great watch dog chasing off unwanted guests: raccoon, possum, fox, coyotes, etc... but usually these are night time visitors. 

QUESTIONS: Who comes during the day and picks off a chicken? 

A hawk, an owl/ eagle?  Considering the chicken wire, I think we can eliminate a large bird. Could it be one of the feral cats that have taken up living in the barn/ a dog? 

Case Unsolved: We'll never know because no one's talking. We're  down to 7 chickens. 

Sometimes life isn't so peaceful here in the End of the Rainbow Valley... Poor Bella (Beautiful). She always squatted so I could pet her.  I will miss you and your beautiful colored eggs.

                          RIP Bella you were the sweetest hen.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Are You for the Arts?

People have all types of collections and some very interesting stories about their attachment to these objects.  There were seven of us present at this July's Show & Tell for Grownups, a smaller gathering than usual but the objects we brought evoked other's memories and we had no trouble filling 2 hours with storytelling. 

The first to share was Dianne who just happens to collect hats. A lot of hats. Here she's wearing what I call a Beanie and Cecil hat given to her by her brother. As a girl she learned Carol Burnett was a hat collector and thought that was 'way' cool. Today over a 100 hats don Diane's bedroom walls. In fact, Diane has been looking for the TV guide that pictured Carol Burnett surrounded by her hat collection. If you find it, I bet Diane is willing to make a deal!

Another Diane in the group also is a collector. It turns out she had gone horse back riding the day before, something she hasn't done for years. She related how much she like most little girls, loved horses. The Breyer Company helped little girls fulfill their horse owning fantasies by creating life like plastic horses in a much smaller scale, of course. I know some of my friends growing up had these too.  I noticed Diane's affinity even extends to her car  with a personalized license plate SEA BISCUIT( different sp). OK, she's a definite horse aficionado.

My sharing was one of artist Jane F. Hankin's whimsical sculptures. Doesn't this fella look like he's enjoying his summer?  Margarita in hand he's sun and funning it. Each figurine comes along with a story by the artist but there's a 'special' story regarding a piece I bought for a long time girlfriend this past Christmas for her "Toodles to the Ta Tas Party." The artist had FB'ed (Facebooked) her newest Christmas Tree Gals and I just knew that is what I had to buy for my friend to add cheer to her mantel. I was 
told another person was interested in one but the artist told me to come by when I was in town to pick one out. Unbeknownst to me until a photo of my elementary school buddy and I were posing with the Christmas Tree Gal posted on FB, did my friend's daughter call her Mom all flummoxed and laughing to inform her Mom there would be 2 Christmas Tree Gals decking out the fireplace mantel piece from now on. She was the other client.  Hey, what can I say except great minds think alike? 

Station brands  between Joan's hand placement
Carol's object was really a very important memoir of a trip with one of her daughters, a walking stick used for a sunrise view climb up Mt. Fuji. Starting at 6,000 feet, at each station a brand was burnt into this walking stick, but before the last segment of the climb, Carol just couldn't continue due to altitude sickness. Light headed and losing her cookies, she didn't have the energies to continue. Carol was really ill. Her daughter and her had predecided should either of them be unable to continue, the other would persevere. While her daughter climbed to the summit, Carol back tracked 'on her own' in the dark equipped with a head lamp and the walking stick to an agreed upon meeting spot at a lower altitude. I think she deserves that last brand for just being so brave. Carol is still collecting trip memories as the mother and daughter team continue to be travel partners. Wow.

George's story was about a game favorite in his household named Quad. Quad is a 3 dimensional Tic Tac Toe game (middle photo) which gave his family many hours of play time. But there's more to this game as George would later discover. You see George's Dad was a teacher who had lost his job and to make ends meet, sold this game Quad, door to door. What folks will do to feed their families.

We also had a new guest this meeting, Patti, who had heard Sue, our group organizer, on the radio and wanted to check out 'Show & Tell For Grownups' to possibly use for a program at her church. Totally ok, to just come and listen...

So last but not least was Susan T. Hessel's story of one of her first  journalist endeavors right out of school. It was a review of a children's play  advertised as 'entertainment for the entire family.' Sue had nothing nice to say about the play as it was totally inappropriate for kids. Death, bad music and lyrics, you name it, she spared no kind  words. Perhaps, she conceded being a bit harsh, full of the power of the pen/ she repeated to me her ego was the size of a house. Not long after the article was published, she was approached by two women in the park one day and asked if she was "for the Arts"?  Hmm, she thought, "Why wouldn't I be for the Arts?" Then, she realized this questioning was because of the review.  Oh dear what to do? How could she ever be assumed to not be a lover of the arts. Sue resolved the issue one day when she came across these two sculptures and bought them to prove she was indeed 'for' the Arts.

Our homes are certainly filled with many objects. Our life stories accompany those objects. You should join us at Show & Tell for Grownups one of these days/ start your own group in your city.