Monday, November 30, 2015

Spatchcocked ?

This year Thanksgiving moved from the End of the Rainbow Valley to celebrate the holiday in Atlanta. In between unpacking the kids, all 7 of us executed chief chef daughter Lori's menu. 

2015 Turkey Relish Tray
We broke in every kitchen counter space resulting in a feast of jelly brie appetizer, turkey shaped relish tray,carrot soufflé,  fresh green bean casserole, macaroni 'n cheese, rustic bread, cheddar cheese jalapeño mashed potatoes, cranberry pineapple sauce and the 'coup de gras' turkey.  

Why do I say coup de gras turkey? 

Quickly and evenly cooked
Well our turkey was 2015's latest trend of a Spatchcocked Turkey which cooks in about half the time due to butterflying the unstuffed bird.  You may remember I love cooking my bird in a Reynolds bag to retain the juiciness but this recipe was not dry and quite tasty. You also probably saw FaceBook postings regarding this de-boned cooking version but it was Gail, Evan's Mom, who brought the bacon (we used beef bacon) enveloped bird to the dinner table with Evan's assistance. Evan wielding the recently sharpened knife (courtesy of Natureman) removed the carcass according to the spatchcocking recipe.

Starting to cook, bacon shrinks with cooking
Then, the bird was infused with a herbed butter. Bacon strips were strategically placed to cover the bird. 

Directions stated to place the legs in an inappropriate way- altho' our Moms always told us girls never to sit that way. 

Perhaps you'll want to try it for your next holiday turkey meal. It was yummy... 

Although I must confess perhaps not as rich as dessert, chocolate pecan pie.  Wink, wink.

I have linked the slide step by step procedure for spatchcocking. 
Spatchcocking from The Kitchn

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bucky's No Longer Bucking...

Hunting is 'big' business here in Wisconsin. In fact, this year we were approached by more folks than usual to come back the End of the Rainbow Valley to hunt, some even offered 'big' money. Most of the time we say "No," exceptions are our neighbors. 

The reality of the 'Wild' is herds do need to be thinned. We don't just see one or two deer, we see herds. Well, there is one less buck for sure in the Valley. You know you've seen a certain deer too often if you have been able to name him. Such was the case of a buck Natureman named 'Bucky' whose rack was pretty impressive.

Dan'll definitely be returning to the Valley
Bucky will no longer be darting across our mile drive. I knew it was just a matter of time before metal hit flesh. Yes, Bucky did have an accident but his demise wasn't from me going 25 mph. It was a bullet during this past opening weekend of deer hunting. A 9-pointer definitely isn't shabby for Dan's first trip to hunt in the Coulee with his buddy Patrick, our new neighbor.  

These guys's freezers will be full. Looks like a lot of venison stew and sausage. Sorry Bucky.

Patrick, Bucky and Dan (Tyson, rat dog is the photo bomber)

But there are still a lot of doe hiding out there. Deer beware and hey, all you hunters, please stay safe.

Friday, November 20, 2015


FOTO FRIDAY this week deals with outward appearances. 

It's time to know the truth regarding our Sentry who welcomes guests to the End of the Rainbow Valley. OK, he likes to masquerade for upcoming holidays.  This month he has been acting like a turkey. (Last month you may remember, he was disguised as a cow so he could catch cow rustlers.)  Never a dull moment around here. 
Ssh, don't tell the neighbors!

Have you come across any figures who change with the season/ occasion? Do share if so.

In Jennifer's neighborhood there's a wooden Clifford who changes outfits with the holidays.
 Here on the left, Clifford is readied for Deer hunting season which began Saturday. 

On the right Clifford was clowning around for Halloween

Last week's  FOTO FRIDAY was  FOGLIKE FEELING,  the fog has lifted a bit.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

TBT: Ain't it Good to Know You Got A Friend?

As my visits back home to Arkansas became more and more frequent due to my folks's deteriorating health, I feared overstaying my welcome with family. As James Taylors's song You've 
Got a Friend lyrics state one just has to 'call'... 'when you need a helping hand' and don't I know how blessed I am to have so many 'good' friends.

Yes, I have mentioned some of these wonderful souls before but their generosity and my appreciation can not be overstated. Staying elsewhere and not alone in a hotel allowed me not only time away from the situation but also companionship. Even on the many nights I returned exhausted and crashed almost immediately, they understood.  
elementary school friend Kaye

These friends from different periods of my life in Little Rock have made sure I ate/ had shelter/both.

Jefferson Elementary, Forest Heights Junior High, Hall High School...

junior high and high school friend Chris

high school friend Lou Ann

and from my adulthood days in Little Rock-
Lil Bit's Mom Ellen,
(sorry missed taking a recent pic Ellen)

Martha Lou

A big shout out and thanks to you all for helping me preserve my sanity and have more energy for the next day. To these folks and my brother Marc and all his family who shared their space. xoxo. Love to you all. 

Even if I can't reciprocate all these folks's kindness as they might not head to the Midwest, you can rest assured I will pass it on... 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Noise and Now the Quiet...

Fifteen of us sat down to the table during the celebration of Mom's life this past weekend. We didn't have to talk about what brought us together, just our presence spoke those thoughts. There was a lot of visiting, laughter and yes, some tears too. 

Sunday's Jason's Deli lunch
 from Wisconsin & NY cousins
As is tradition relatives and friends took care of the meals so the immediate family didn't have to think about food as we ate and we ate and we continued to graze throughout the weekend. Burge's smoked turkey salad, delicious apricot noodle kugel, Panera's sweet rolls and bagel breakfast, Chick Fil A's, a hearty cabbage roll dinner with noodles, Jason's deli trays and soup, sweet brisket, potatoes and carrots. Dad will have some great left overs for future meals.

But perhaps the most difficult part of the weekend were the departures for my Dad. 

First to hit the road heading for Atlanta before 7am Monday were my daughter Lori and her fiancé Evan, who by the way appropriately calls my Dad, Pappa just like the other grandchildren.

The next set of goodbyes came from the Texas branch of the family, my brother Keith and his family who had torrential rainstorms on their car ride home.   

Son Steven and his significant other Karen shared a yummy dumpling lunch with us before their airport departure on Monday. Texas storms would delay their Philadelphia return until 1:30 am the next day.

With a bit of time before the airport run we took a little walk around the Arkansas Arts Center.

Nephew Matt and his Pappa 
The remainder of the out of towners would stay one more night and leave Tuesday am. Unbeknownst to us until the last minute, returning college senior nephew Matt realized he was on the same flight  with us where we would all change planes in Chicago's O'Hare.

We have now departed the 'Rock' now, leaving my brother Marc and his wife Terri (both saints) and high school senior niece Becky who live in town. 
Marc, my saint of a Brother 
Marc has the toughest job living in town. He has been an amazing, loving caregiver for our folks, Mom and now just Dad. We are so lucky to have him as both he and his wife have hearts of gold.

Dad mentioned in our phone call last night that the passing of Mom now has had time to start sinking in as the noise of all of us is gone and the quiet surrounds him. I know it will not be an easy transition. 62 years together is a long companionship. 

We as his family can only hope he will find inner peace with all their memories and begins to fill in his days in a different yet productive way...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Letting Go

A cloudy day had turned into a picture perfect fall day by the time we arrived at Oaklawn, Little Rock's jewish cemetery for the private burial of my Mom.  Under the outstretched limbs of a huge oak tree, two Rabbis officiated graveside, Little Rock's newest Reform clergy, Barry Block, led the brief service and Rabbi Levy, a family friend, who as his first rabbinical charge 28 years ago in Little Rock married my youngest brother Keith, shared some personal thoughts.

As is the jewish custom once the coffin is lowered, a small packet of soil from the Holy Land is sprinkled atop the casket and those who want, help shovel first, a symbolic shovel of earth with the backside of the shovel (to show reluctance), followed by a couple more shovelfuls of soil from the large dirt mound that would later cover the coffin. My mind wandered...

To be truthful I had said goodbye to my Mom way before this day as the Alzheimer's disease had left just a shell of a person who was once my Mother. Her weight loss and muscle atrophy were very pronounced. She had reverted to her native language of German and had started calling out more and more for her parents, sleeping a lot with minimal conversation these last two weeks. Yet, no one could gestimate how long she would remain in this state. I wasn't the only one to utter the words to her that it was ok 'to let go.'

During the previous visit home I had also accompanied my Dad to the funeral home to prearrange both her and his funerals. (Take it from me prearranging our own funerals is indeed a gift for our children.) 

Then, on Thursday of this last week, the day I was to return on my prepurchased round trip ticket for Mom's birthday, I received a call early in the morning that Mom had died peacefully in her sleep. Knowing how 'practical' she was I have no doubt she didn't want me to waste a ticket. She definitely planned this. She was that way...

After the family graveside service, limos returned us to the Temple where before about 200 folks Rabbi Block wove an amazing eulogy from the information we had shared the previous day.  My Dad and brothers asked me to speak for the family, an honor indeed and cathartic to say the least. 

My Mom, Hildegard Sherman, may have left our lives physically but we don't have to 'let go' of the attributes she extolled and loves she embraced as those will continue to live within all of us privileged to have known her as a wife, mother, grandmother and friend.

Friday, November 13, 2015


FOTO FRIDAY this week finds me back in the Rock and in a semi fog. Glad to be surrounded by family and friends as we celebrate my Mom's life . This was a pic from my return flight last week over Chicago. 

With the support of others we can find our way out of the fog.

Feel free to share your fog photos.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


You know I don't think I've mentioned our newest toy for Natureman and it's not that SMART TV which BTW we are still trying to figure out past the TV channels and DVD playing. The HUDTV 4K pixel is incredible. BUT if anyone knows how in the world to play an Amazon Primetime Movie and also have sound, please let us know!

Anyhow back to the new man toy, after one of my trips away I returned to news that 'someone' had purchased a new trailer for hauling. You see the End of the RainbowValley's eye sore, our lemon yellow cart's tires had had one too many flats. One of the tire lug nuts had broken off and the tire couldn't be removed/filled with that gunk to patch leaks from within any longer. 

"So where is this new purchase?" I asked.  I hadn't seen it parked next to the lemon cart on our last bend before arriving to the house. "Well, it's being made," Natureman replied. In disbelief I uttered, "Being made?" " Yeah, this guy actually custom builds the trailer and it will be delivered on the weekend." 

I don't know why I was imagining a long flat bed trailer like you see parked out in front of Farm and Fleet but on Sunday after delivery when I went out to view the newest man toy addition, I stared in disbelief. This is it. The metal trailer was solid but tiny. Natureman beamed with pride and who wants to challenge a man about size? But seriously, one could barely carry anything in this mini new trailer? Natureman assured me The Tractor (remember that's what he ended up naming the tractor) could only pull so much without issues.

Sure enough when I saw the size of the tree cookies hauled back to the woodpile, comprehension was mine. Hundreds of pounds of wood. Natureman has been 'playing' and I use that word loosely cutting up a huge red oak and elm. I have no clue how he lifts those cookies into the trailer but they have certainly increased our wood pile. 

If you venture out this way you probably will be greeted by the sound of wood being split. 

Natureman sure has his fall workout and his new toy to help him get the wood back to the house wood pile. This trailer will out live us both...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Disposable Seasonal Cup?

It has already started only it's more obnoxious than ever and we haven't even gotten to sit down at the Thanksgiving dinner. Capitalism at its finest. It's the imaginary War on Christmas cam-paign,"a pretend persecution complex that is built upon lie after lie of supposedly angry companies and a mythical organized disdain for Christmas that would make even the Grinch blush." Even for folks like me that live in the back of End of the Rainbow Valley know that there is no war on this Christian holiday except for people like evangelist Joshua Feuerstein who insists that Starbucks has "removed" the holiday off of their disposable coffee cup. 

Seriously, when you see red and green don't you think of the holiday of Christmas?/ Does a coffee cup provoke the true meaning of Christmas and why it's being celebrated? Do we remember we live in a pluralistic society where more than one religion celebrates holidays during the month of December?

Well, we can be certain that FaceBook will be inundated with the fear of Christmas being removed. Maybe it's time we practice what we preach and not let what's important religiously to us become so commercialized. Perhaps instead of war, we could work on peace.

* BTW I am happy ecologically Starbucks has 'disposable' cups.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How Many People Does It Take to...?

Considering the really bad news that is all over media today regarding transparency, accountability and integrity, I have opted for some levity of the really important topic today. We all remember as kids telling jokes having the question "How many people does it take to...?"  Well, here's the End of the Rainbow Valley's version of how many folks it takes to install our new flat screen TV.

You may remember me mentioning the 'old' 2003 plasma 42" flat screen TV decided to go kaput. According to the TV sales guy, it had outlived most of its plasma buddies. 
The new 49" much, much lighter 2015 model arrived by mail ( In fact, the UPS guy felt his truck was too big to turn around by the house and hand carried it from at least a city block away.)

The new TV patiently sat awaiting some more muscle to arrive to detach Old Faithful. Those old plasmas are 'really' heavy. It was a 2 man job for the installation 12 years ago so we knew 2 really strong folks were needed to de-install it from its swing arm wall mount.

Well, the calvary arrived alias Natureman's unsuspecting youngest son. And he thought he would be getting exercise chopping wood for this visit... 

OK, you know what's going to happen, don't you? This 'extraction' and installation became a long process.  After the decision was made how to remove the old plasma off of the wall mount, it took three of us to hold on to the old set and maneuver it off. A hammer came out and I feared disaster lurking. Well, it finally came off the arm mount and everything and everybody were still in tact. 

Next, the wall mount hardware had to be detached from the old set with the correct tools. The challenge was finding the necessary Allen wrench.  Whew, one was found. Now to attach it to the new back of the new flat screen. Yep, another problem. The old bolts were too large to fit in the pre-made supposedly 'standard' holes. One correct size bolt was found in Natureman's collection so off the guys went to the nearest hardware store.  They were back within a half hour, 4 bolts in hand but they didn't fit... Off again to the next small town, home within the hour. These bolts worked, thank heavens to the salesperson who realized the fit was in centimeters. (Weren't we supposed to convert?)

I was no longer needed so I proceeded to work on dinner. These installers were starting to sweat and were going to need more than a beer after this job. The height installation took at least four attempts as the wall cabinets hardware and wall mount arm were not cooperating. During this time a neighbor and his daughter stopped by and they happened to have a socket kit in the back of their truck with a correct size socket wrench that helped the process along. Halleluya for their arrival and relieving some of the tension. 

WD-40 unstiffened the wall mount arm, a couple readjustments, it came off its track, off on, the procedure was arduous. Can you imagine? 3 + hours later , the TV was mounted and swiveling with ease. Job accomplished. 5 folks in attendance. Some of us were smart enough to stay out of the way.

Isn't it beautiful?
All is right with the world the new flat screen is up. Maybe tomorrow I will even get the cable guy to connect it properly! Wait, does that mean it takes 6 people to install a TV?


Monday, November 9, 2015

Two Rail Accidents in Two Days, Two Too Many

The inevitable happened in Wisconsin this past weekend as the state suffered not one, but two separate cargo train accidents. 
photo by Matthew Seckora , Daily News
The first, 25 BNSF tanker trains derailed Saturday morning about 8:50 am, 2 miles north of the town of Alma (pop. about 800) as 2 cargo cars emptied approximately 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River. Two highways, 35 and 37, were temporarily closed with a voluntary evacuation of the area. Residents returned to the area as disclaimers later stated the spill was of no danger to its inhabitants. Of course, this does not address the possible damage done to wildlife in this recreational area as the beginning of the annual tundra swan migration has begun. Alma is a main stopping/feeding area for these thousands of birds along Rieck's Lake and the Buffalo.
photo courtesy of Karl Zarling, nearby Watertown resident
The second incident occurred in Watertown, an western suburb of Milwaukee as Canadian Pacific had 11 crude oil tanker cars that derailed about 2 p.m. on Sunday. The spillage/leak was stabilized and 'plugged' while 35 area residents were asked to evacuate.
The good news for both accidents is that no one was injured, there was no fire either. The bad news this time is the spillage and its long term effects. These are the risks of continuing the transport of volatile substances in unsafe rail cars on railways and infrastructure which still remain to be updated/repaired. 

How long will we have to wait until there is accountability? It's time for our safety to come before profit.  

Friday, November 6, 2015


FOTO FRIDAY's New Look has to do with an unplanned change I made in Little Rock's Park Plaza Mall where I had spent a lot of weekends during my teen years. It also has gone through quite a facelift since those years as the once two level dingy mall with a bowling alley on the lower level with Woolworth on one end and Blass department store on the other now have become Dillard's and the two levels are 3 with a glass atrium type ceiling letting in a lot of sunlight reflecting shiny store fronts.  While at Park Plaza earlier this week with high school buddy, Chris, I was handed a small packet of hair serum, you know the kind that calms the frizzies. The 'handee' beckoned me to have a seat at the nearby kiosk of a product called Evolution.

Evolution is a new fandangle flat iron with ceramic onyx plates which without much pressure flatten those curls. I can't tell you how badly I wanted straight hair as a teenager, to be like everybody else. Last Sunday in the Mall a small dream came true and within 15 minutes those stubborn curls disappeared and I felt what it was like to have long silky straight hair that didn't disappear within 10 minutes. 

I made the hairstylist follow me back to where my buddy Chris was getting her hair cut to see her speechless reaction and where she captured this moment of her friend of almost 50 years with straight hair... 

AND although I have had 100's of likes before on a FaceBook posting, never have I had 85 comments. This new hairdo definitely took on a life of its own.

OK, honestly this won't be a permanent look as I feel my identity is definitely my head of curls. It's nice to know I can have an alternative when the mood strikes me. Evolution might not be not evolving into a new person but the fact we sometimes evolve to realize we can be who we are even if different and that's OK.

So do you have a pic of a change? 'Would love to share it. Glasses, weight loss, wardrobe change. Send it my way.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Out of Our Hands...

Today I will be heading back home to Wisconsin. This had been an unplanned trip to Arkansas. My Mom's waning health had warranted a couple trips from the senior home where she resides on an Alzheimer's floor to the hospital and as I mentioned last week  Tuesday night returned to the Home with hospice care.

What I didn't mention was that my brother Marc's sweet mother-in-law, Leaine, was placed on hospice the previous Friday. That's two Moms (and I might mention his family dachshund) who are all on hospice.  I could hear it in his voice, he needed some relief.  

I got busy finding a flight south and figuring out where I would stay. Did you know when you buy last minute tickets it's cheaper to buy one way rather than a round trip? I didn't. Anyhow,

Wednesday, my Mom's first day of Hospice, I was back in the Rock and thanks to friends, housed. The week has been full of visits to be with my Mom but more importantly to be some company for my Dad. We have visited all of his favorite eateries and I have been able to help do some house tasks that needed attention while giving my brother Marc a bit of a break, at least from our family demands. 

My youngest sibling, Keith, also came in from Texas for a couple of days so we decided to celebrate my Mom's birthday a couple weeks early. The home provided a private dining area for us to have lunch. We all sang Happy Birthday including Mom.  She even ate some, unusual as she really doesn't have an appetite anymore. 

Sitting in her special wheel chair we all shared a dinner table as a family of five as we had for so many years. I don't know how many more times this will be possible because as you know some things are just out of our hands... 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Hallowed Eve's No Exception...

My newest Halloween votive candle addition ... 
Some folks really get into holidays and to tell you the truth I am one of those. This shouldn't shock those of you who know me and the fact I also really appreciate other's efforts to get into the holiday spirit. 

The market definitely knows its consumers and has made sure we can decorate not only inside our homes but outside as well with oversized blow up blacks cats, pumpkins, etc...

Halloween is my friend Chris's favorite holiday and she takes it seriously. Her extensive Halloween collection fills her home with witches and the Halloween themed dining room table lacks nothing...  
Chris also collects Halloween costumes and volunteers the week before the holiday at Boo at the Zoo donning a different outfit each night. This year she also volunteered to give out candy at the Mall's Trick or Treat. It was so well attended stores actually ran out of candy.  I can't wait to see what new hat/garb she finds for next year!

And Chris is not alone. Friend Janet loves holding parties and she does Halloween proud.. Even her bathroom has the holiday spirit.

Costume ontest winner 
Her party guests join in the fun dressing up for the costume contest. 
FYI Party Pooper's on the right
And although Lincoln was clever I think friend Beth who came as a Party Pooper should have been a co winner as every party needs a pooper and that's why we invited you...  

Finger food... literally.
And I am not sure who won the scariest food entry but I loved the finger food idea, don't you?

Brother Marc's Halloween collection of years past...
Anyhow, I hope you were able to get into the holiday spirit in some way even if it was just taking advantage of those great after Halloween candy sales. Just be sure and save me some Reese's peanut butter cups, ok?

Monday, November 2, 2015


  "One isn't necessarily born with courage, 
but one is born with potential.
Without courage we cannot practice
   any other virtue with consistency.
We can't be kind, true, merciful,
     generous or honest." Maya Angelou

In 2014 Arkansans across the state  celebrated the life of artist and activist Dr. Maya Angelou with her childhood home community of Stamps, Arkansas. This Day of Remembrance was to become an annual event with a different partnering state school's poetry contest and scholarship awards.

This past Thursday a Friendraiser was held in the lovely setting of Little Rock's Trapnall Hall with many members in attendance from both the Advisory and Celebrate! Maya Project committees.

A banquet table donned with scrumptious finger foods awaited guests in the dining room along with good conversation and even musical accompaniment.

Janis F. Kearney, author

A short program included being greeted by committee chair Janis F. Kearney, author, lecturer, and publisher (also diarist to President Clinton), 

Mr. Easter's thankful for both academic
and social educational opportunities

a word of thanks from one of the first Celebrate! Maya Project scholarship recipients, Ja'Colby Easter, a University of Central Arkansas freshman,

and the reading of senior Savannah Autumn from Lafayette County High School, first place winning entry in the 2014 first Celebrate! Maya Project. Below is Autumn's beautiful poem, What Does a Caged Bird Dream?

Fostering the arts and scholarship is a gift to the future of students in our small towns. The following suggestions were made to help with this project:

  • Share the Celebrate! Maya Project story
  • Host a Celebrate! Maya Project Fundraising Event
  • Donate to the Scholarship Fund
  • Host a Maya Angelou- themed event at your school or  community of faith- such as a poetry slam or musical performance.  
Donate today to help our youth reach their potential.

Please make checks out to Phoebe Project, noting Celebrate!Maya.  
Any amount is greatly appreciated.

Celebrate! Maya Project
2 Rosier Court
Little Rock, AR 72211


(also on FaceBook)