December 31, 2011

Last meal of 2011

And dang, did we make it good!  The 2.5 lb T-Bone steak was really like a small roast. We started by searing it in the cast-iron skillet and finished it off in the oven.  
The ribeye and sirloin pieces were so tender that we call it meat butter as it just melts in your mouth.   I can't sing the praises enough of Jenny Street Market's meat counter.  Just wow!

So now, I'm going to try and stay awake until Midnight. 
Adios 2011.  Hello 2012!

December 30, 2011

Terrariums - fun project for a snowy afternoon

Give me a day off of work and I can easily find things to do. Was inspired to build some terrariums today when I found some really fun glass pieces at a thrift store.  Does anyone remember making these as a kid?  I'd get so lost starring at mine - I could imagine a whole separate world in that container.
 Got some great advice at Jung's Garden center and they set me up will all the proper materials including pea gravel, charcoal, Zippy potty soil, moss and some cute little plants.  With the cover, it's already warm and nicely humid - Just what plants love.
For this terrarium, I put an elephant in for one of my favorite books as a child - Horton Hears a Who.

And of course I'm already wondering what is going to happen to Horton in his new habitat.

December 27, 2011

A walk on Christmas

 Christmas day this year was a gift in itself.  The sky was mostly sunny but more importantly the temps were in the mid 40s which in a Wisconsin December is saying something....  And the added bonus is that Lake Mendota has not frozen over yet.  

Todd and I took the pups for a hike around Governor's Island on the northshore of the lake.  Teiko saw the open water and looked for a stick immediately.  The water is pretty frigid - but heck, he's never been able to swim this late into winter.  
Here he comes in from the water.  I could tell after a couple of fetches that the cold water had numbed his hips.  Not sure if that was a good thing or not - but we continued on our hike. 

Because the ground is actually frozen, we got to walk through the cat-tail marsh - it was beautiful. 
Even Cita got into the thick of things when we hiked down one of the cliffs to get to the shoreline.  

What a nice way to spend Christmas seeing the open water of Lake Mendota, the Madison skyline and walking with loved ones. 

December catch-up

December has been filled with food, family and a snow-less warm Wisconsin December.  Here a just a few random photos from the month.  

Above is a veggie-potato soup I put together for a quick dinner.  Had lots of leftovers from a veggie tray.  It's a great way to use up those last handfuls of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.  I sauteed them with onions and a little garlic, added chicken broth and some red pepper flakes, added some raw potato, cooked,  pureed and it was yummy. 

This prime rib roast was served for one of the family gatherings.  It's so simple and delicious.  Before putting the 15lb roast in the oven - rub with a salt, pepper, powdered onion and garlic and chopped fresh rosemary.  Score the fat side (with the rub) and roast in the over at 350 for about 75 minutes.  The fat renders on the top and leaves delicious little bacon-bits on the top.

Teiko visiting at Grandma's house.  He's watching and waiting for the pizza flavored doggy treats we had picked up at Bad Dog Frida's on Atwood Avenue - great pet store with awesome toys and treats for dogs and humans! 
Finally have the fireplace area nice and cozy with the new leather chairs, bookshelves, a Persian rug picked up at the Maple Bluff Antique Mall for a song, a mantle of sorts to camouflage the fake stone wall and delivered firewood that is actually dry and burns great - from Green Thumb Farms in Sauk City. 

That's the whirlwind that was my December. How was yours?

December 19, 2011

The recipe that started it all

Here's the recipe that I will always attribute to Raine's path towards Chefdom.  The cookbook was one of those freebies that came with buying a bag of flour.  I had originally picked it up with Ryann in mind and we made lots of goodies from the book.  Of all of the 26 recipes from "ABCs of Baking" book, the Mud Pie was our favorite.

I love the chocolate smears on the page showing how often we used this recipe while we lived in Holland.  This was one of the first recipes that Raine could make when she was eight years old.   I found the little book on the bookshelf tonight and had a great trip down memory lane.  

My friend Melissa, who now lives in South Africa recently asked for the recipe of the brownies the girls would make for parties at our house in Holland.  I sent her a picture tonight via Facebook.  Yay!

It's easy to make good food - when you use whole ingredients.  Always stay as close to the source as possible. Who knows, you might inspire the next chef.....!

December 14, 2011

Angie's Clouds

The sky gave us something beautiful after attending the funeral of Todd's cousin Angie on Saturday.  Todd calls this picture "Angie's Clouds"  

The undulating waves of clouds were something one doesn't t see every day.   We followed them all the way  home from Portage.  

Rest in peace sweet Angela.

December 11, 2011

Maybe this will change your mind about bats

Living along a marsh since 2001, I've come to appreciate the beauty and amazing nature of bats.  But that wasn't always the case....

When we first moved in - we didn't realize that the house came with bats.  The first spring was quite a surprise, when the bats came "home" for the summer to give birth to the next generation.  And they were everywhere.  Under our decks, in the doorways, in the basement, under woodpiles.  OMG - I was scared sh*tless - because they were everywhere.  And I was sure they were rabies carriers to the first degree.  I wanted them gone. Here's a post I wrote a few years ago about the Bat Education of Rylee.

Over time, I've learned to appreciate our differences and give them the sanctuary they need.  Maybe someday I can even learn to get along with humans of certain political persuasions.  Check out this heart-sweet video of a baby fruit bat being nursed back to health after being abandoned.

December 4, 2011

Packers win and Venison

Wow...don't get me wrong, I love my state teams, but I don't get that fanatic. Until the nail biter of tonight's game of the Packers and Giants.  Holy Duck Feathers.  That was a close one. Yay Pack.

The only way to celebrate that Wisconsin win was with friends and venison from this year's hunt in Marathon County.  Served with Potatoes Au Gratin, grilled green beans and an very nice Clos Du Val Cabernet.  Because the Packers are what? 12 and 0 - I threw in some homemade banana cream pie.  

Life is good. 

Make lemonade.....

Remember back in 2009, when we lost the beautiful 40 year old Locust from a nasty lightning strike?  Well, we cut the tree down ourselves later that fall and stacked it next to our house to let it age for a year.
That bonus pile of wood inspired us to retrofit our drafty fireplace with a wood-burning insert the next year.  Since we had all this free wood now, might as well burn it.  The wood burning stove was one of the best investments we've made with the house.   What a difference it has made on our heating bills.

The beautiful Locust kept us nice and toasty warm last winter and provided us with beautiful fires.  The last two logs of the tree we decided to do something different.....

If all goes well, we'll have lots of cute little coasters to give to friends at Christmas.  They are drying on the rack as I write....

So when life gives you lemons.......

December 1, 2011

Into the Heart...

The stately German Shepherd- ...Protective, bold and smart, he looked into my eyes......And stole my heart.

Courageous and endearing, a stand out of  his  breed, so proud and yet so loving, a steadfast friend indeed.

Caring disposition, Faithful to the core.  

If you have a Shepherd’s love, you can never want for more.

My boy, Teiko.  I feel sad that I can't give you more of me.   

November 30, 2011

The life of Raine

Raine is now in her second year of culinary studies at Madison College.  Along with going to school full time she is a line cook at Madison's venerable Tornado Steak House where she works full time as well.  

Looks like the photos were taken on Fish Filet 101 day as the first photo shows Raine  rolling a piece of fish skin.  In the above photo I can't tell if the fish had been filleted or not.   

When you ask Raine "What's up?" Her response is always the same, "School. Work. Sleep. Friends"  I don't get to see her much.  So I really appreciate the photos taken by her friend Katrina  who captures some amazing details in the day of this chef in training.
In Anthony Bourdain's book "Kitchen Confidential" he talks about his beaten, battered and scarred hands  from a life spent in a kitchen.  Looks like Raine is working her way there pretty quickly.  Food prep and cooking is not for the faint of heart.  Making a dinner for 10 people at home will not cause scars like this but cooking for 150 night after night, sure will.  

I am in awe of this driven and talented young woman. 

November 21, 2011

Dog puzzles, who knew?

Spent Saturday afternoon at Bad Dog Frida, a great local store for people who love their pets!.  They gave German Shepherd Rescue an afternoon of free publicity and a place to bring our foster dogs to meet new families.

Of course, to support such a great local store, I bought/found a new toy for Teiko.  It's a puzzle from a Swedish company - just like the dang educational toys and wooden puzzles I'd buy for the girls many moons ago.

Basically, you hide treats inside the dowels, slide them down the row and the dog has to figure out how to move the dowel to release the treat.

Teiko gets so excited when I bring the puzzle out.  He knows and smells the good and smelly treats.  He can move the dowels with his teeth and feet.  Sometimes he releases the treats but doesn't eat them because he's more interested in the next dowel.  Give him just a couple of more times.  I can see a more complicated puzzle coming in his Xmas stocking......

In the meantime, putting a puzzle on the floor with your dog and interacting with him, really reinforces how smart dogs can be and how much more we can do with our dogs.

November 9, 2011

Beautiful songs

Started following a thread from Facebook and decided these are my favorite songs today. Have a listen....

Because of You....written by Arthur Hammerstein.  Why haven't I really heard K.D. Lang sing before?  What a beautiful voice and especially with Tony Bennett.

What a wonderful life....written by Bob Thiele and George Weiss.

I fall to pieces...written by Hank Cochran

November 8, 2011

Post 400 and the last rose of summer

Holy cow, I've been doing this little blog since May 2007 and this is my 400th post.  I started blogging to simply write about things that amused, amazed and sometimes even frustrated me.   When I look back over the years, I find it's a rich reference of my life's plotting.  I refer to often for the first garden blooms and the last, how Beatons is progressing and how the girls have grown.

A nice history source, perhaps for some future geneaologist (once I export the files and put on a server in my datacenter.....for posterity)

Anyway....began cleaning the garden beds last weekend and put the roses to bed for the winter.  This beauty was one of two roses still in full bloom. And the smell is just divine.  The cranberry glass vase was my great great grandmother's (Nanny).

Venison Chops

Dinner last night was one of my favorites.  Venison Chops served with a wine reduction sauce.  This Sauk County venison was hunted by my Dad last year and given to me for Christmas.  Great gift!

We marinated the chops in rosemary, garlic and ginger and pan sear medium rare.  The mashed red potatoes stand nicely to the rich sauce.  The garden is still producing very tender Swiss Chard.  I'm hoping it will keep growing until Thanksgiving.

November 1, 2011

Beef Stew is what's good for you...

Threw a batch of beef stew together tonight in 25 minutes (minus the 2.5 hours of stewing time....) It is absolute beefy and delicious goodness!  Of course, I made enough to feed an army, but it should freeze well.

All veggies coarsely chopped:
2 cups of onions
1 cup of carrots
1 cup red potatoes
1 cup celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 cup red wine

1lb. stew meat
1 beef soup bone
1/2 cup flour (put in plastic bag, add salt and pepper to season)
Cut meat into 1 inch pieces.  Add to bag and shake.  set aside.

4 cups of liquid (broth, beer, water, etc)

Extras (if desired...or add your own):
1.5 tbs beef bouillon if using water, like I did.
1/2 cup tomato juice (or one can of diced tomatoes....)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Grain: 1/2 cup barley
Steak sauce to season.

Preparation: 25 minutes

1. Heat dutch oven on medium high, bring to heat and put 2 tsp olive oil.  Add 1 cup of onions and carrots.  Saute. As onions begin to sweat, add soup bone and brown.  Once veggies are cooked, add 1/4 cup red wine to deglaze.  Remove veggies if desired.

2.  Add floured stew meat to pan and sear..  Do this for 7-10 minutes.  Meat will brown.  onions and carrots will caramelize, if left in.  Add 1/4 cup wine to deglaze.

3.  Add garlic, potatoes and celery and cook for a few minutes.

4.  Add water, stir and bring up any bits of frond still left at the bottom of the pan. Add bouillon, stir.

5.  Add thyme, seasonings, steak sauce and/or tomato.

6.  Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for 2 hours.

7.  Add mushrooms and barley. simmer for 30 more minutes

8.  Dish up a thick, beefy stew and enjoy!

Note:  It's the soup bone that give the depth to the taste. The longer it cooks, the better....

October 23, 2011

Need a job for your heart?

Have a little time?  

Need some unconditional love?  

Maybe, just looking to give back a little in this life? 


Then now might be the time to be a Foster Mama (or Papa) to a dog one shot away from nothing.

(Mira, my 6th foster dog and one I should have kept....:)

I got involved in dog rescue and fostering in 2008.  I did it for a couple of reasons.  

One, to be honest, I was looking for someone to love, my kids had grown and I'm a nurturer at heart (even though I had never thought of myself as such) but when the house was empty of demands, schedules, homework, practices, etc. after 20 years, I found I had some extra attention to give and no one to give it to.  
(Here's Trixie, now known as Hailey, who my parents fostered through the summer of 2011)

Two, I have been so fortunate to have had such amazing dogs in my life: (Puffy, Willy, Tasha, Cita and my sweet boy Teiko)  How could I not do something?

(My first dog, Puffy and me taking a "nap")

Three, I read a heart-felt plea about truly honoring your dog who had passed, by giving another dog a chance.  

So 10 foster dogs later. I've learned a few things...   
  1. Dogs want to please you.  Just not always the way you're expecting....
  2. Your energy - both good and bad says more to a dog than your voice.
  3. All new dogs will "mark" your home at least once....  
  4. Dog (and kids) need structure, rules, discipline and time to be free
  5. Joy comes in quick moments and you had better pay attention: Like a wagging tail, a play bow, a successful "Come" or "Sit" and sometimes, if you are lucky, a full jump of joy.
  6. Your trust in the dog is a powerful tool for training. 
  7. Your heart always has room for just one more dog and that's why you can let go.
So here's Dakota, my parents' and my latest foster.  Dakota is truly a rescue in that she came from a neglect situation where she was forcibly surrendered by a dog-hoarding family that also kept wolves, yes...wolves.  For the first three years of her life, she was kept in an outside pen behind the barn (and yes, Wisconsin winters suck).  When coming to shelter, with no socialization to the real world, she was timid, cowered and would back-up from everything.  The only comfort she could give herself was licking her skinny hip.  

Thankfully, the family gave her to the local humane shelter, which spent the time getting to know her sweetness.  After a few calls and emails, Dakota found her way to GSRAW.  With a couple of months of love, attention, care and discipline she has just blossomed into an amazing young dog.  Yes, she has a lot to learn yet, but dang, she's come so far.  

Today Dakota and I worked on some house-dog basics.  She conquered the stairs.  She hammered the word - "Come" (always have a great $1000 treat - like ham). She worked on the sit, stay and wait commands.  She wore out my arm with a Wubba and her absolute joy to play. She sniffed every tree on our one hour walk.  And she didn't knock over the miniature poodle, Cita.   

The best moment:  She gives hugs.  Really!  She'll jump up gently, put her front paws around your middle,  tuck her nose in your side and just be.

Here is a great dog who just loves to be in safety and kindness and knows how good she has it. 

And the sad....she could have easily had been euthanized like so many others - because of her initial fear of new things.  

And imagine that.  What a loss of joy.

PLEASE, please consider fostering.  It makes your heart feel so good and it really does make a difference!  

October 16, 2011

Meet Dakota

Meet Dakota, our latest foster girl from German Shepherd Rescue Alliance of Wisconsin.  From what we know about this 3-year old girl , she was an owner-surrender to a Wisconsin county shelter.  It was a hoarding situation and the family had to give up a couple of dogs.  Dakota was kept in an outside pen behind a barn for three years with little interaction with others. And she was surrendered with a wolf.  Yes,  the family had wolves.  Are they nuts?

What we know so far about Dakota is she is a just sweet girl who bonds with a person totally but is very skittish and afraid of the unknown.   This lack of socialization causes her to try to run away from new people and experiences, cower and bark if backed into a corner.

But once she gets to know and trust someone, she is just a sweetie.  And guess where she landed?  Yep, my parents have opened the doors to Grama's Healing Center for Dogs.  This dog needs lots of love, attention and a safe place to decompress.   She's had a pretty full week already as a few days ago she had to have surgery to remove a broken canine.

She is recovering now and  was well enough on Thursday to take a set of blinds off the window at my parents' house. My father wanted to "test" how she'd do if he left the house for a short time..... My mom unbeknownst to this great plan was at the grocery store. She came home to a very happy dog sitting on the end table by said window wagging her tail and glad someone came home.... I think my dad came home a few minutes later and got a time out....

Cosmos aren't just for drinking

I just love Cosmos.  They grow like crazy in just a few months, fill an area with lots of color and make a great back fill.  Here in Wisconsin, I'm seeing them actually self seed.  The Cosmos pictured here are mostly from self-starters that germinated and grew in the pebbles below.  I pulled them out and replanted them and look at what happened - these babies tower at 6ft tall.

I saw some orange ones by a church yesterday.  Think I'm going to have to find some of those for next year....

October 6, 2011

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

The temps this week have been in the upper 70s and just beautiful.  This morning during our daily walk, Teiko spotted one of several very busy squirrels gathering acorns.  It's the only time his ears are full up.

 The colors of the trees are almost full peak this week.  It is a good time to be in Wisconsin.  Since we had a hard frost last weekend, these temps will be fleeting.  Winter is on her way - but for now, let's just enjoy the present.

Had to take a photo ofTeiko chasing his frisbie under the beautiful reds of a young maple tree.

October 5, 2011

The end of summer

Probably the last bouquet of this Wisconsin summer.  We had a good frost last weekend (31 degrees) and all the annuals have bit it.  This is why I lean towards perennials - they can stand a shot or two of artic cold blasts.  Pictured above is a bouquet of sedum, coneflowers, cosmos, vervain and one rose from my back garden.  

Meet Victoria Schuchart - my Great Great Grandma

This past weekend was the annual Wedekind family reunion in Baraboo, WI.  I'm the family's genealogist in this branch - lucky them.  I love to go as this event grows more each year and new branches come with great photos and wonderful stories that bring these people to life.

I met a distant cousin who brought photos of Victoria Schuchart, my great-great grandmother, standing on the front porch of her house on Ash Street in Baraboo, WI.  I'd never seen a photo of her before so it was awesome to "meet" this grandmother.

I know from my genealogy research, she was born in Lancaster, WI around 1866, a daughter of the Schucharts and Gabels of Grant County, WI. Her parents and family were German Catholic immigrants who had previously farmed the rich soils around the villages of Geismar and Eichsfeld in the Thuringer province of Germany until the late 1840s.  I also know this was one of the last Catholic vestiges of northern Germany in an otherwise "reformed" part of the country.
To keep their religious freedoms and seeing the new opportunities in America, they emigrated in the 1850s to Wisconsin.  The Wedekind clan came 25 years later with a widow Christine Noring Wedekind and her five children finding a safe landing with this clan in Grant County. 
Wisconsinite Victoria, married my handsome German grandfather, Joseph, seen above in the  late 1880s.  Joseph died in the early 1900s after he and Victoria had started a good life together and had had several children.

Victoria, according to many grandchildren, and stories told to me this weekend, married a second great, loving man named Henry Noring,  Henry and Victoria  lived for many many years in Baraboo, WI.  They  raised all of her children with Joseph, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack in August 1903.

Above is a photo of the adult children of Victoria Schuchart and Joseph Wedekind with their deeply loved step-father, Henry Noring.  This photo is from 1955.  My great grandfather, Henry Wedekind is in the back row. 

My belief is that Victoria was introduced to her second husband, Henry Noring, by her first mother-in-law Christine, who was a Noring and had emigrated and found welcomed refuge in Lancaster, WI.   I'm still figuring this out but this is why I love history and genealogy.  There are so many threads, stories, and deep connections of family and love.  

Seek out your roots.

October 4, 2011

Bone-In Chicken Breast with Fig jam marinade

Tonight's dinner was a beautiful chicken breast with a fig marinade served with toasted Israeli couscous with porcini mushrooms and sauteed spinach.

I recently bought some Quince and Apple's Fig and Black Tea Jam at a local farmer's market.  I love fresh figs but in Wisconsin, they are available for about two days.  So I go to the experts to get the flavor and joy of a fleeting summer. 

The master of the grill, Todd, cooked these bone-in chicken breasts to perfection.  I, of course, made the marinade.  Here's the recipe:

  • Half (little more) jar of fig jam
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • 1-3 cloves of minced garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to season
  • Red pepper flakes to taste.
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients, stir.  Take two chicken breasts and put in plastic bag.  Add marinade.  Let sit 30 minutes on counter while grill gets hot or sit in the refridge for up to 12 hours.  When ready to grill, take meat out of bag and plate.  Using a brush, spread the marinade over the meat.  Pour the rest in a bowl to use later. 

Todd is the master, I can only give basics at this point.  Heat grill as normal.  Sear the breasts quickly on high heat.  Then turn down heat in the middle of the grill - or set to cool area.  The idea is to finish cooking slowly with indirect heat - about 30 minutes all together.  Turn regularly. Baste the meat with the marinade when turning.  Towards the end of grilling, turn the breasts meat-side down and fill the cup of the rib bones with the marinade.  Let sit on the turned-off grill while finishing the rest of the sides. 

We served with boxed couscous and added dried porcini mushrooms and a wok full of sauteed spinach.  The wine was a delightlfully full-bodied Simi Sauvignon Blanc 2009 purchased at our local Pierces Supermarket for under $12.  


September 25, 2011

Steak dinners are never bad

Sorry about the poor photo quality....But had a great steak (one ribeye, shared, $10), shrimp (4 prawn at $5) mushrooms and baked potato with fresh garden chive for dinner last night.  Felt we deserved it after sanding/staining wood all afternoon and Todd helping Elliot at the farm.  Plus not eating beef but once or twice per month.

Paired the dinner with a really nice Napa wine from our local grocery store, Pierce's. The wine was a beautiful, full nose/mouth taste of Napa.  Highly recommend!

September 24, 2011

Kitchen cabinet redo

Am working on the sanding and staining the recycled kitchen cabinets which were the infamous honey oak color from the 90s. These cabinets, reclaimed from a remodeling job, will be in our downstairs kitchen.  The sanding was easy-peazy because the original stain was so light.

Now I'm onto the color portion of this project.  I'm going for a darkish brown color on the oak wood.  The middle panel has one coat of my mix, while the bottom one has two. I mixed two parts glaze to one part paint and the two coats seem to do the trick with a finishing rub of walnut Watco Oil.  I am looking for the warmth of a rich color while still showing some wood grain.  Working with the glaze/paint method gives me more color choices than just staining alone.   I got the idea to "paint" the cabinets from a cute little DIY blog called  Just a few more doors to stain and they will be ready to put back on.

September 23, 2011

Best garden producers this year

Looks like the Chard and bird-house gourds are the winners in this year's garden.  The tomatoes flopped, the rabbits got the peas and the arugula, while awesome has totally gone wild.   The Chard is just delicious this year and I have tons more to harvest.

September 19, 2011

Pickles make the world go 'round

One jar of sweet pickles is what came from our garden this year.  Alright, I confess, we do have two other jars of dilled pickles, packed by Todd.  

But these babies are mine....

My favorite pickles are the kind you get at multi-generational potluck dinners.  Those butter pickles, sweet and full of warm summer memories.  This is what I've attempted to created.  

Recipe: 10 smallish pickle cucumbers from your garden - sliced, water, sugar, cider vinegar, dill, a little more sugar, pepper corns and a few red pepper flakes to spice 'em up a bit.  I'm sure there's some salt in there as well - a good pinch - and then marinated in the refrigerator for a while.

   They will go quickly at the upcoming Wedekind family reunion. 
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