Monday, August 31, 2015


Remember how excited I was with my gorgeous soup bowl from the fundraising Soup Bowl night in Viroqua? 
the backpack strap knot that didn't hold
Well, that lovely bowl wasn't long for this world as this week it became a bunch of pottery shards as the small cloth backpack's strap I had slipped over my shoulder as I got out of the car gave and down fell the lime green back pack with the bowl onto the sidewalk. :( I do expect some empathy  (a couple AWS would be nice because I was headed to the August La Crosse Soup and now I didn't have a bowl.) I figured I could still make my $5 donation no matter what. 
Dianne 'does good.' 
When I arrived I found a spot for my blanket behind my knitting friend Dianne with whom I shared my soup bowl's demise. She offered me her bowl as she said it was a cream based soup night and she wouldn't need her bowl. Oh my, the soup gods were watching out/ La Crosse SOUP's motto of DO GOOD is already working its magic besides micro financing. Thanks Dianne. 
Update : Some 200 folks attended last month's soup soiree ($1600 collected) so an optimistic 300 tickets had been printed for August's La Crosse Soup and guess what?  300 wasn't enough. Actually, a very good problem to have with almost 60 more needed. If you multiply the $5 requested donation for a bowl of soup that's already at least $1800. 

The night's soup was a creamy 
potato leek soup donated by the The Mint, savory/sweet bread from Great Harvest Bread Co. , a pastry and from Lifelawn Gardens fresh radish sprouts  besides the proceeds from a keg of beer donated by local Pearl Street Brewery. 

After all the evening's proceeds were counted, a whopping $2280 would accompany the Giant Soup Spoon to the most popular pitch. 

As a refresher/in case you missed the July posting, four pitches are made to the gathered community and the attendees will make their entrance ticket/ballot of their choice for the micro financing. 

The night's four pitches included:
Y appeal

1. YMCA FOOD FOREST: An edible Forest : a year round garden planted street side starting this year in front of the YWCA. Monies would help with plantings and public workshops. Community passerbys could help themselves to the produce. The gals seated around me decided they liked would love to volunteer to help after seeing the organizer. He was very impassioned to educate the public re: growing their own food/ food for others  ... DOING GOOD.

Chris, one owner of the soap business
2. NOT YOUR MOTHER'S APRON SOAP: Two sisters who run a home grown soap business using less chemicals making their soaps to be more eco and hygienically friendly need some monies for an exhaust fan for their business. Their generosity included a small soap sample for the evening's attendees. We all were beneficiaries of this small business DOING GOOD.


Casey donated radish sprouts for soup night too.
Local landscaper Casey of Lifelawn Gardens uses city residents' backyards gardens to grow produce. In exchange the homeowner receives a percentage of the produce, Casey then takes the remaining yield to area farmer markets, donating 10% of his earnings to community projects. He also vouched 10% of his remaining season's earnings to go to SOUP in addition to future transportation of his yield to be bicycle fueled to market. Monies needed for hoop greenhouses to start and keep plants in cooler weather. Win win business plan of :DOING GOOD.

Kate, UW-L prof volunteer at Franciscan Hospitality 
4. A SPECIAL WEDDING CEREMONY: Kate, a UW-L English  prof, volunteers at the city's new Franciscan Hospitality Center where homeless folks can get a how shower, wash clothes, have a place to take a nap, get a meal, etc... (BTW donated hygiene products always needed) One couple who live in tent city and have been plagued with health issues and financial complications are now getting married. Kate's appeal is for monies to throw them a wedding. The center will provide a wedding meal for community guests. Kate added extra monies would go back into La Crosse SOUP. During questioning time: someone asked if they needed someone to marry the couple. Well, no, there was no one yet to officiate but now there was as the asker volunteered. Then another questioner inquired if the couples had bikes. No, Kate didn't think so. Now they did as even a tandem bike was donated to the future couple. Community: DOING GOOD. OK, more wet eyes. 

Kate with last month's Root Note winners (L) and
Andrew Londre (far R) accepting SOUP spoon award
Sentimentality and the SPECIAL WEDDING CEREMONY won the evening's votes. 

'Do good' seems to be the perfect motto for La Crosse SOUP.

Even your city can 
'do good' with this community micro financing idea. 

* I almost forgot to thank the newest addition to last Wednesday night's gathering - MUSIC. A big shout out to the musicians who added to the festive atmosphere. 

Below is the link for July's La Crosse SOUP in case you missed it:

Friday, August 28, 2015


FOTO FRIDAY this week resulted from one of our Annual August canoe paddles to see the lilies/ lotus in the Mississippi backwaters
I stand corrected as here is Wikipedia's definitions of the two: "Members are commonly called lotus, though "lotus" is a name also applied various other plants and plant groups, including the unrelated genus Lotus. Members outwardly resemble those in the family Nymphaeaceae (water lilies), but Nelumbo is actually very distant to Nymphaeaceae."

We actually had seen the water lilies in full bloom in July but now we actually could see the last of the blooming ones and all their stages, so why not share, right? 

River height is obviously down
Opening & spent bloom 
Full bloom lily
Pod after  spent bloom 

Drying pod with seeds visible
Besides their beauty, the lily plants serve as food sources for young fish and aquatic insects acting also as a natural water filter. 

In all its stages the flower's beauty is amazing. Don't you agree?

Do you have some photos of a stage/stages of your choosing? A child/pet (it was National dog day), etc...

Last week I combined FOTO FRIDAY: PHOTO OP into an entry with a public servant who truly supports her public. Wisconsin's Senator Baldwin

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dear Deer

Some days I am faced with a predicament never before faced living here in the End of the Rainbow Valley.  Tuesday was one such day and it involved a deer, actually a fawn.

I was heading into town and after one curve come upon a blob in the middle of the road. I slowed and lo and behold discovered the blob was a fawn curled up who raised her head as I stopped. Obviously alive and as I opened the car door to shoo her off the small highway, she rose up very wobbly. It was then I saw the reason for her wobbliness, her right rear leg was just dangling. Basically hanging by bloody tendons. Not a pretty sight. She some  how had the strength to make it to the high grasses roadside.

OK, for right now she is safe. I worried about her the entire drive into town and decided I would check on her upon my return. If someone had hit her, why didn't they stop? Maybe she had gotten caught trying to clear the guard rail off the steep incline. Who knows?

Anyhow, she was still there and alive upon my return. My thoughts were she needs to be taken out of her misery.  One of my friends does animal rescue and rehab but just does small animals and besides how will this fawn survive in the wilderness if she lived. My only option was to go to a neighboring farm house and see if anyone was home.  (Thought process - they'll have a gun.)  Remember this is rural Wisconsin. Nobody was home until the third home, about a 1/2 mile away. Out in the garden a mom was picking tomatoes with her kids. After explaining the predicament, she looked at me and said, "We can't shoot it because we'd lose our hunting license." "Oh," I responded, "So who do you think I should call? She suggested the sheriff's office.

There's no cell reception so her daughter ran into the house, grabbed a phone book and brought out the cordless phone. I placed the call and before I could say why I was calling, was asked the address. I could see the fire number street side and the dispatcher said, "you've called the wrong county." "No, I don't think so," I retorted a bit peeved. Oh, she was looking at the map incorrectly and then listened to my dilemma and said the closest officer was about 20 minutes away. 

I decided to turn around and go wait roadside by the fawn so the officer wouldn't miss her. I waited and waited and thought if he doesn't show in half an hour, I'd leave. Maybe 3 cars drove by during the wait and despite my blinking lights, no one even slowed. Isn't that weird? Glad it wasn't me in dire straights. Finally in my rear view mirror I saw the black and white car which not only wasn't slowing but barreled by.  I stuck out my arm waving frantically. He stopped ahead. 

After hearing my story, seeing the fawn back in the grass. He says, "You know there are a lot of 3 legged deer out there." No, I didn't know. He said he'd have to call the DNR. "Well, whatever you need to do Sir." I feared the skiddish deer ending back on the road and causing an accident but I guess he didn't want to put the deer down. What else could I do? I told him I was going home.

I looked when I went back to town later in the day and the deer was gone. We can all imagine our own scenarios of this story's ending. Just another day in the Driftless Region...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Now's the Time to Fall in Love...

There's something missing between the rhubarb and the swiss chard. Considering our culinary lives here in the End of the Rainbow Valley have centered around 'maters the last couple of weeks, we substituted  the 'm' in 'maters with a 't' today and dug up the 'taters.  

Actually Natureman is the digger and I am the picker upper.  That is until the sack is full and so heavy that I can't budge it. Natureman grabbed the wheel barrow, lifted the 100+ lb bag of Kennebecs  into it and wheeled it out of the garden. Whew, this is a 2 person job. 

I love the mini Mickey Mouse potato head, don't you?
The second bag was filled with  2 different kinds of Fingerlings (Russian Banana, Austrian Crescent) in addition to Purple Majesty, All Blue and Red taters all new for our garden. Last spring we had been given these designer varieties to try when we were in a farmer's market in Milwaukee. So, we'll let you know when we cook with them.

Meanwhile, did you ever hear the following song? One of the advantages of watching those old movies and having a Dad that sang those songs. (1931) Take a listen, this one is a good one:Potatoes Are Cheaper, Tomatoes Are Cheaper

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hitting the Sauce

The temps have really dropped, a perfect time to hit the sauce. But hey I'm not talking about liquor, take a look at the picnic table below. 

I can't believe it's been an entire year since we last made spaghetti sauce. But alas, not only is the next batch of tomatoes ready but we are almost out of spaghetti sauce. So out came the huge cooking pots.

My personal preference is not to find skins in my sauce so I thought I was going to go through a couple extra steps of scoring one end of the tomato with an X after using a small melon scoop to remove the stem end. After a quick boil and some cooling time, it'd be super easy to remove the skins. But Natureman had other plans and it was to skip the parboiling part and just cut off blemishes, those ends and  half them, blending them before cooking. 
Had a difficult time cutting up these guys...
All the 'maters were thrilled to jump into the blender. (These two above discussed the situation. Sorry, I know I was taught at a young age not to play with my food) Any how the blended tomatoes were pretty frothy but would eventually settle down.

Next added was the chopped garlic and quartered onion. We didn't sauté them this year first as everything would be cooking all day. We had some extra summer squash and carrot so in they went too into the Cuisinart chop, chop, followed in the pot by organic tomato paste, a great thickening agent. (Next year my homemade dehydrated tomato powder will take this store product's place.)

Stirred in some chopped fresh basil, oregano, parsley, anise, rosemary and thyme.  Before adding salt and pepper to taste and some sugar to cut the acidity, we allowed it all to simmer and reduce before canning. It's an all day affair.

Well this batch of garden tomatoes mostly Roma produced 23 quarts of spaghetti sauce and got a thumbs up from Natureman.
Pretty, isn't it? Talking color of the sauce here.
With this cooler weather I bet we'll be opening the first of the jars for a heartier meal pretty soon right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley. Stop by and share it with us some time. We have plenty.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Life's Just a Bowl of Cherries

We had a 'lost' couchsurfer last week. Yep, a first for us. You see after the Chicago traveler's stop at the famous Willy Street Co-op in Madison, her rented car's GPS decided to send her in the wrong direction. Oops an extra hour in the car and a weary traveler who decided to accept fate and stay in Madison. We received the call that she wouldn't be arriving to the End of the Rainbow Valley Thursday night. She'd call the following day to let us know what she would do. The call came before 8a.m. stating she would still come our way en route to Deluth.

She did arrive the next day before noon. Julia was glad to stretch her legs before lunch and returned renewed just from her short walk. I call the feeling 'decompressed.' City stuff just dissipates and the valley's countryside does its magic. She felt it. Just what she wanted and needed... the purpose of her journey out of the city.

Julia with the home brewed herbal tea
Julia has a lot of dietary restrictions so she travels with her own food but she added veggies and herbs from our garden and land. In fact, she gathered goldenrod and clover and brewed a refreshing tea, sharing it with us. 

For dinner I made 2 versions of the same vegetarian Indian dish with a side of kuri squash  (tastes like sweet potatoes) and she was most appreciative. We were able to visit about her endeavors and learn more about each other.  (The goal of couch surfing is sharing.) Ultimately Julia would like to take her masseuse practice out of Chicago into a more rural setting and be more connected to the land. 

We visited and shared the Sabbath, ending the evening with Julia playing a couple songs she had composed and sings at open mic nights. Very sweet melodies and lyrics. It was a nice ending to a lovely day.

Julia would have a very long journey to Duluth so she was on her way before 10 the next morning. Hopefully she has made it to Duluth by now but I know she is resourceful and will create new adventures wherever the path takes her. 

Isn't life just a bowl of cherries?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Double Specials due to a Senator, Wisconsin's Senator Baldwin

Double specials at Gracie's Gyros and Wraps restaurant. Remember the owner, Despina Kozidis who spoke up for serving everyone? 

Well, today she had a very special guest and to mark the occasion she prepared a family recipe of stuffed eggplant (Melitzanes Papoutsakia) featuring it as a special.  Well, of course I ordered it.

That special guest was none other than our state Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay senator, who stopped in to not only have lunch but to thank Despina for doing the right thing. 
Baldwin's area repre- sentative, John Medinger, accompanied the Senator for her visit as she stopped by tables to say hello to folks after visiting with Despina, daughter Sofia and meeting restaurant staff. 

I was able to thank Senator Baldwin personally for all she has done while in office which made my day. Politicians really do need to hear when we appreciate their efforts. 
Here we are ... Sue, the Senator and myself
And in addition to that I learned something after my Buddy Sue commented that she hadn't been calling the Senator's office since they agreed on the issues. Senator Baldwin's response surprised us as the Senator urged us to call the office regardless as calls are tallied 'for' and 'against' the issues.  So, constituents call your senators if you have an opinion, for example, re: the Iran nuclear arms deal, in Wisconsin email or call her office (202) 224-5653.

Considering all the publicity that has been given around the country of businesses which refuse to serve the gay community, we can be extra proud of our local restauranteur Despina Kozidis and Senator Baldwin who make this world better for all of us.

Here's a link to Channel 8 news:Senator Baldwin at Gracie's

And if you missed the original Gracie's story here's that entry:Got My Goat!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I've Got Chills, They're Multiplying...

Do you recognize these two? Olivia Newton John & John Travolta
"It's electrifying. You'd better shape up cuz I need a man..." There up on the 'BIG' screen last night were not only the late 70's heartthrobs of Sandy and Danny but also the lyrics being sung by me and the audience at the last showing of Grease Sing-A- Long at our local Marcus Cinema Theater, yes a movie. 
And yes, we were supposed to be singing. In fact,  I think the top row behind me was doing dance moves too through some of the movie. Three girls and a guy in their 40's were totally into not only the music, but had a lot of lines memorized. Too fun.  

There were only 2 days of showings for this sing along version of Grease ( Sunday and  Wednesday). It must be a hoot to have a full theater. It was pretty sparse (some 20 folks) during our showing but we still sang with all our gusto.

Apparently Grease has been the top gross making musical of all times. Who knew?  The movie came out some 37 years ago starring the oldest teenagers ever but we didn't care then and we certainly don't care now. The music was great.

Yet it never hit me as so hokey until last night nor did I realize it also had so much sexual innuendo. The scene below was at the drive-in during the refreshment commercial at intermission ya know when you were supposed to go to the snack bar...

Travolta was singing on the playground swing as the popcorn & popsicle danced around in the commercial ending with the hotdog jumping into the bun on the screen behind him. Oh my.

If the sing-along comes to a theater near you, you've just got to go. And you can pre- tend you're a T-bird/ Pink Lady.

Conventionality... Grease is the word.

Entertainment plus and you are part of its history!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What's the 'Mater with Ya?

It's always tough taking off during August but thankfully  we were able to slip away for a couple of days after the corn was harvested and frozen and before the first onslaught of ripened 'maters (tomatoes). By August haven't we all had enough of weeding? For us the August garden although unkempt, will still produce plenty. 

Upon our return to the End of the Rainbow Valley those once green tomatoes were now red and ready to be picked and cooked. Thank goodness for an overcast and rainy day.

18 quarts of End of the Year Vegetable Garden Soup are cooling... The last 5 ears of corn, some potatoes, a head of cabbage, green beans, onion, carrots, beets, chard and tomatoes along with seasonings joined the pot for this year's batch.

In another couple of months we will be really glad to have this soup on a cold day. Meanwhile the next batch of ripened tomatoes will become spaghetti sauce... 
                But that's another 'mater for another day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Say Yes to the Dress...

At 90 Pappa's still pulling them in...
The family reunited in Arkansas this past weekend to celebrate my Dad's 90th birthday. Quite a milestone indeed and since my Dad loves to fish, what would be better than a fishing day for the boys?

Goal- fishing lines to be in the water by 7am. Departure time - 5am. Driving time: an hour and a half. The Birthday Boy was the first one to catch a fish and a nice trout it was...

The girls would have no problem finding something to do much later... 

Front: Bride's Grandmas, Honoree Grandma Leaine and Oma
Back row: Cousin Becky and Aunt Terri
Smart daughter Lori had plans  to involve her Oma (Grandma) in her wedding preparations so what could be better than going dress shopping?  Some women folk are really not shoppers ( I'm omitting names to protect the innocent) but because it was for Lori, these two acquiesced.

We arrived to our 10 am appointment in the Heights bridal boutique  called:
only to discover the date had been mistakenly written on the following week's calendar. Oh dear. "Not to worry," they replied, "they could accommodate two brides at once. " Thank goodness or we would have had one very disappointed bride-to-be.

When I went wedding dress shopping many moons ago, I went to a consignment shop, saw 4 dresses my size, tried them on and bought one of them for $90. Today this would be a totally different ballgame with my daughter.  I mean you've watched Say Yes to the Dress, haven't you? 

Step 1 
Mother of the Bride & Bride: 
Hit the racks and pull out a variety of styles.
Thank goodness there really weren't oodles to choose from as Lori "had" asked to stay away from strapless although it seems most of the samples were strapless. (Haven't we have all been at weddings where the bride spent half the evening tuggin' up on the bodice?) 

Anyhoo, Kristen, our boutique attendant, suggested pulling 8/9 dresses. Regardless of size, Lori and I chose different styles, fabrics, neck/back lines, sleeve lengths - off the shoulders, spaghetti straps, cap sleeves, lace boleros, bodices, trains/no trains, lengths and accoutrements: i.e. decorative belts, to determine what Lori liked best. We avoided bows and huge Scarlet O'Hara styles.
Electrical clips?

Step 2 
Bride: Tries choices on
Store attendantClips floor sample to ensure better fit with electrical clips no less. 

Step 3 
Bride:   Models for her audience. 
Family: Ooohs and aaaahs.
What? You didn't think I was going to show the bride in the gowns, did ya? 

Step 4
Family: Comments on pros and cons. 

Step 5 
Bride: Narrows down choices to top 3. Tries them on again. 

Choices were narrowed down and Lori definitely got a good idea re: styles and what not only looks the best on her but how they feel.  A bride's got to be able to move on that dance floor!

Let me just say she will be wearing a white dress, a short veil and will be a stunning Bride which I can say with full confidence because I am her Mom... 

Monday, August 17, 2015


FOTO FRIDAY: Folk's ingenuity never ceases to amaze me and this week's photo will prove my point. 

This past Tuesday at coffee time after Jazzercise I mentioned the need to head home a bit earlier than usual as Natureman had said the corn needed to be picked. Shucking, de-cobbing, bagging and sealing this year's corn harvest would be our afternoon project. 

It just so happened Tina, the owner of Java Vino, had stopped by our table and heard me. She inquired if I used a bundt pan. A bundt pan? I gave her a perplexed look. Tina replied, "Well yes, you take the pointy end of the cob and place it in the hole of the pan. It not only holds the corn in place making it easier to cut the kernels from the cob but also keeps the corn within the pan." I returned home determined to give it a try. Sho' enough if that trick doesn't work like a charm.  No slipping or sending kernels a flying. 

This de cobbing technique in the bundt pan really works.

Do you have any ingenious food preservation/canning techniques to share that are time savers? Do tell. 

Oh and by the way, although Natureman planted less corn this year we ended up with 19 pint baggies/ in order words 38 servings which should get us through to next year's harvest. Wink, wink.

Did you see last week's FOTO FRIDAY? It was a SPECIAL ANNUAL PHOTO of a special friend.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mighty Proud of Driftless Musicians...

August 12th in Viroqua
Wednesday evening Natureman's youngest, Simon, would be performing in the very same bookstore (Viroqua's Driftless Books and Music) we were in last week. You know we were anticipating listening to some more mighty fine music. 

So I decided to ask Natureman if he ever thought his youngest  would be performing music for money on stage. He replied "not beyond high school nor for money for that matter." The only music lessons Simon had had were piano lessons for about 5 years. Simon was in choir at school and had the lead in the senior year musical so his Dad knew he had a nice voice. Simon's Mom had an old guitar in the attic which Simon discovered one day and started playing around with it. He hung around friends who played music but his playing really didn't mature until he went off to college. 

Simon didn't start writing music until much later after a serious relationship ended in a breakup. Girls can do that to the heart. Since then the lyrics have been a' flowing. Simon's original English major background is evident in his music along with his final degree in history with the melding of metaphors of the Driftless area where he grew up and socio economic references. Although one of his new songs is called Ohio because it rhymes better than Wisconsin,  we know where his heart lies.

Preceding Simon in the Driftless Bookstore were a long time friend and talented musician Ian Vaver (who unfortunately didn't bring his mandolin) but still strummed a mean guitar and  

a duo you have heard me praise before from some Old School Variety Show performances, The Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers. Here, one of their old time fiddle songs gets accompanied by some kazoo. 

It was a lovely evening of music for young and old alike.

Kudos to the Driftless Books's owners for using their store for a music venue to allow musicians to share their craft. The old tobacco building lends itself to some nice acoustics. You should check it out. Wednesday's concert was a $5 suggested donation. Where else can you get an evening of entertainment for $5? Don't worry, we left extra. Musicians need to eat too. 

youtube links below :

Ian and Simon at Leo and Leona's
Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers
Simon Balto