Balto, our rescue dog, has always been friendly with human visitors to the End of the Rainbow Valley and if anything you’ll be licked to death vs attacked. He’s loosened up a bit regarding other 2/4 legged residents. His attitude has been pretty much laissez faire, live and let live, almost a bit too uninterested. His prime attraction is definitely the two legged ones vs other furry creatures.

When we adopted him we thought we were getting a good watch dog with 85 pounds to back him up. It took at least 8 months before he even barked to let us know someone was approaching. He does have a bark in addition to his singing howl/whimpering/talking. The bark at a recent snow plow’s arrival demonstrated increased volume and duration. It made me wonder if he was reprimanded in his former life for being too boisterous.

Anyhow let’s just say he’s opening up. I ‘ve found him interacting with the barn cats who have moved up on the front porch since the goats are on vacation. AND his interest must have been sparked after the gnome Tom T. ‘s visit and the Chanuka elves doings as one night I discovered the three of them just hoop n hollering it up.

Thank goodness, I interrupted their plans as chocolate coins are not good for dogs for sure and Balto has definitely helped himself to enough sweets the last month without these two egging him on!

*Last week’s FOTO FRIDAY explains that last statement…


I told you I wouldn’t indulge the elves’s antics all at once since I didn’t want the notoriety giving them more impetus to misbehave. They could get into mischief and have just as much fun. But here’s another story from the Thursday before the kids came over…

I had just finished tidying the guest bedroom and making up the bed for the Madison kids’s overnight when I remembered the tv remote needed to be returned to the bedside table. As I headed back in the room who do you think I caught jumping up and down on the bed?

Yep, Chanuka Harry and Larry had wasted no time, the nicely made bed was just too tempting.

They knew they were in trouble and high tailed it as fast as they could to hide behind the pillows, but they had been caught.

A fall off the bed and the doctor wouldn’t be able to put them back together again. No more elves jumping on the bed!

Those kids, I mean elves…


We warmed up a winter evening this week by attending a “spice” class at our local food co-op. Awaiting us was a choice of hot beverages, homemade Chai tea, Spicy Loco Cocoa/Cardamon Coffee. The cocoa was loco in the hot category, not just temperature wise from being warmed up by electricity but hot because chile had been added. That kick was a terrific way to warm up!

Our instructor for the evening was Elizabeth Geissner, an English teacher by profession but a life learner with the uses of spices and herbs in her life for both medicinal and savory gusto. Dedicated to educating herself about spices she has some 100’s of hours of self and formal courses under her belt. Our evening would be concentrating on both warm and exotic spices and herbs… grinding, grating, chopping them for infusing, rubs and blending these as new additions to old recipes.

Elizabeth brought some of her favorite resources.

Ceylon Cinnamon

As the class description promised we had an opportunity to touch, smell and taste basic and exotic spices and herbs. In front of us were 14 spices alphabetized to help us keep straight what they were with handouts listing them and room to jot down notes on which dishes/ sauces to add them and some of their medicinal properties.

The 14 included: allspice, anise, cardamon cayenne, cinnamon, clove, cumin, fennel, ginger, juniper, nutmeg, peppercorn, turmeric and vanilla.

Also set up was a sampling station with pickled mustard seed which also was added to yogurt, homemade spice berry jam, tumeric honey, spiced peanut butter which could be added on top of goat cheese and crackers, and we sampled her Grandma’s recipe of pickled watermelon. We received all the recipes too except for Grandma’s.


The discussion about exotic spices from all over the world included a short description and a sampling of many of them: Anardena, Annatto, Asafoetida, Ceylon Cinnamon, Fenugreek, Galangal, Grains of Paradise, Juniper Berries, Saffron and Sumac. These were not in our collection in the End of the Rainbow Valley but will certainly make their way onto our shelves.

We were able to create a couple blends in class but since we have most of the ingredients, the juniper berries , rose petals and ceylon cinnamon were the only ones chosen to come back home with us. I also am definitely going to try the chopped up ginger in water for the winter and setting a vanilla bean in that pint of vodka to shake it up every time I open that kitchen cabinet to help it transform to vanilla…

Ginger water on the far right…

If you’d like any of the recipes for the sampling foods, just let me know. There are also great handouts at the Coop: ie this one below for buying in bulk for gifting. It even comes with recipes and gift tags!

Elizabeth’s spicy zest wasn’t lost on us as now we will pursue adding different spices and herbs to our meals!

*A big hug to my book group, The Happy Bookers, who were so generous for this wonderful People’s Food Coop gift certificate which I applied for this class with Natureman! xoxo


Two Mondays from now will be extra special for a couple of reasons . One is the featured speaker at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration Lynda Blackmon Lowery who was the youngest person at 15 to make the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

I am looking forward to Lowery’s talk entitled “History: Past, Present and Future about how Dr. King brought history into her life at the age of 13 with three powerful words ‘Steady, Loving, Confrontation‘ and how those three words have a powerful impact on our present and will forever let us and her walk boldly into our future, changing lives and laws as we go.”

There will also be three awards given: One to Tracy Littlejohn, a 2007 UWL graduate and current co-adviser of the university’s Native American Student Association who will receive the community’s 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award, the second,one by Ms Lowery to an area high school student for outstanding leadership and the third, a new award this year called The Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy award. Spoiler alert this long time activist also lives in the End of the Rainbow Valley…

The Legacy award was inspired from MLK Jr.’s ’68 speech in Atlanta’s Ebenezer Church about the ‘drum major instinct’King talked about cultivating the right relationship to the “drum major instinct” with the right relationship we possess, leading and serving, not to be first in praise, but rather to be, “first in love.” “King’s drum majors are planners — contributing a lifetime of study, reading and creative, critical thinking so an event or organization can be most effective. They are cheerleaders, beating the organizing, motivating drum. They are participants, encouraging others to listen to their own hearts and act from love. The award is not merely about an individual’s countable accomplishments. Rather, it is about acknowledging the essential drum majors leading efforts to do the right thing even if it’s uncomfortable, unreasonable or impossible.”

The photo to the right is in the historic collection in the U of Minnesota Alumni Center. The guy on the right is my Natureman as a senior on the U of Minnesota on May 4th, 1970 during an anti war movement calling for a strike against the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. It was also during that day when 4 students were killed at Kent State by the National Guard.

A long time friend, Lynn, instigated Natureman’s nomination and contacted numerous people he had worked with over the years in combating social injustice. His friend Guy composed the main nomination letter and the other letters of support were combined to compose an 8 page nomination letter.

This Twin City born individual came to the Coulee Region ~ 45 years ago with the Back to the Land Movement to live lightly off the earth, to grow his own food, learn about food foraging and preservation, cheese making, bee keeping, goat and chicken raising and heating with wood.

Activism is a way of life for this guy and it also filled his life by helping to organize: student to student counseling in Minneapolis Public Schools, parents involvement in Head Start, giving input for the Duluth Project, a male batterer’s domestic abuse curriculum, bio regional gatherings, supporting others in the occupation of the Lady Smith Flambeau Copper Sulfide Mine.

In recent years he has helped communities oppose a CAPX2020 transmission line and also dangerous BNSF oil trains, CAFO farms, etc… collecting monies for Standing Rock clothing and supplies in addition to numerous protest marches re: Climate, Science, Sand Mining, Unions, Women, Refugee Support and Islamophobia.

No doubt I’ve omitted some but the nomination committee’s picture was clear that any movement is dependent on not just one leader but many participants helping to beat the drum… All of us have the power to do something no matter where we live whether it’s donating time or monies, a call, a signature, a letter to Congress/even a protest march.

CONGRATULATIONS to all the foot soldiers working to make this world a better place and to my Natureman for making social consciousness his way of life.

May Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy be passed on to the next generation…

Most cities have a celebration and whether you go alone, with a friend/ family, you will be reminded you are an important part of the legacy. Join your community as today as 50 years ago was a tipping point…

*The MLK Jr. celebration in La Crosse will be held Monday, Jan. 20 at 7pm at Viterbo University’s Fine Art Center. Tickets are free and handed out when you are in line. Donations for La Crosse’s local Food Pantry will be greatly appreciated .


Some nights sleep eludes me but this was one time there was a special reason for my insomnia. I thought a clatter had awakened me. As I headed towards the living room, I heard a ruckus coming from the kitchen. I should have realized right away it wasn’t a visiting rodent because we did have other guests during this holiday season…

And the cries for HELP verified someone was inside one of the cabinets and was yelling and banging to be let out. Maybe one of the elves / gnome had needed a snack in the middle of the night and the door closed behind ’em.

Upon locating where the noise was coming from, I opened the cabinet door and lo and behold there hung a moving gift bag and NO, I didn’t think this was a Chanuka gift from Natureman.

Oh no, Harry and Larry had been at it again. There they sat laughing their little heads off at their latest prank. BUT it was not funny. They had ambushed Tom T. on his search for the gifted oreo cookies that Natureman and I had received to enjoy.

Harry and Larry were helping themselves to the lemon oreos as Tom T. hung there swinging above them. I scolded them as I loosened the bag’s ties and apologized profusely to Tom T. for my rude elves.

Red faced Tom T. was exasperated, grumbling that he had overstayed his welcome since we didn’t have a goat for him to care for anyway. I reassured them Harry and Larry would be gone by the end of the week but he had enough of their shenanigans… So after polishing off a cup of hot cocoa ( none for Harry and Larry) he readied himself for his journey as I packed up a goody bag of oreos, an orange and Chanuka gelt for his journey along with a note of wishes for his return next year and a Happy 2020. Tom T blew me a kiss and was out of sight before I could respond…

Now as far as those elves are concerned, I won’t be sharing any of their tales until TBT ( Throw Back Thursdays) They don’t deserve any more attention right now…


Last Friday night was our family night to celebrate Chanuka. We all received a very special homemade gift from daughter-in-law Jolene. She has had a very busy holiday month perfecting her cookie decorating and business baking for craft fairs and filling special orders.

BUT I think we were privy to her first batch ever of decorated Chanuka cookies and they were beautiful. I have no clue how one can have such a steady hand with icing. Even the dreidl ( top) came with two different combos of the 4 Hebrew letters of the acronym Nes Gadol Haya Sham ( A Great Miracle Happened There) on each of them. IMPRESSIVE.

These could be on your holiday table next year!

The cookies also had a sparking going of which the star in front caught in this lighting. Jolene said it’s a spray. How kewl is that?

Let me share her FaceBook page with you: Mommy’s Sweet Addictions.

If you hadn’t seen last week’s FOTO FRIDAY re: THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS an addendum needs to be added of dog Balto’s choice of extra servings. Last night while we were away his peanut butter kong must have not been enough as he helped himself to the tupperware container on the middle of the kitchen island within which were maybe 5 Chanuka cookies. The operative word ‘were’… I guess he needed dessert. His sweet tooth is something, in fact when he smiled I’m sure his smile sparkled…


You know I thought once Harry and Larry knew I could check in on them with the pet cam they would think twice about their mischief . Well, no such luck as son Simon discovered and can attest to a cat leaving the room being scanned so can Chanuka elves.

I have been a bit reluctant to journal Chanuka Harry and Larry’s activities for fear you’d judge me. You see sometimes you can prevent/deter certain elf shenanigans. Yet, when placing an aluminum foil covered dessert in the fridge it would be prudent to set something much heavier on top. I admit I am guilty of being negligent.

I forgot that the Pavlova, an Australian fruit meringue trifle layered with strawberries, blue berrries, kiwi, and raspberries between almond flavored real whipping cream would be way too difficult for Harry and Larry to resist.

Silly me… Here’s how the trifle looked before placing it in the fridge… I even drizzled raspberry sauce on top.

When I followed the giggling to the kitchen, lo and behold my surprise when I opened the fridge door to see the boys inside the trifle. They couldn’t move and I had to remove the bowl, elves and all to the counter to extract them…

They had eaten so much they couldn’t right themselves and what a sticky mess covered with whipped cream! AND the dent they made… Oy, I’d have to fess my negligence to the company. They would be still be enough but it was not so pretty.

Harry and Larry has made quite a dent!

Perhaps I could salvage it . Hmmm. I took a spatula and maneuvered the mass together. I’ll clean up the bowl a bit and move the mass to the center. I don’t think anyone will even see their footprints, do you?

Whew whipped cream is forgiving!

I hope you won’t reveal our little secret!