Friends from Liberty Pole, a town even smaller than us here in the End of the Rainbow Valley joined us Sunday night for the final night of the Festival of Lights, Chanuka, a minor jewish holiday to commemorate the first fight for religious freedom in 165 BCE.

One would think religious fighting would be over by now but unfortunately it continues which makes understanding any holiday’s history and symbolism even more important. We spent the past eight days sharing the holiday with friends, family and some times just the two of us.

We retold the story of the small band of Maccabees victoriously defeating Antiochus’ big Assyrian army, ate traditional foods like latkes (potato pancakes) fried in oil to remember the destroyed synagogue’s miracle of the one day supply of oil miraculously lasting eight days ( sang traditional songs, played dreidl, a top game. Let me explain…

During history this dreidl game served the purpose of protecting those praying/ studying Judaism. When guards would arrive to make sure Jews weren’t practicing their religion, they would just discover dreidl being played as a guise.

Pictured above is one of the littles who was the grand prize winner in our family night dreidl game. Each side of the dreidl has a the first letter of the hebrew phrase A great miracle happened here. Depending on which side the top lands determines if you don’t remove anything from the pot, put in two coins, take half/all. Candy/beans/chocolate/real coins can be used for playing the game. Natureman’s coin supply certainly came in handy.

And children and adults nowadays experience a gift exchange during the eight nights of the holiday. Originally children would receive Gelt (Money) a coin/two. The coins would be used to buy candy/ small toy. Emphasis was also put on sharing / using some of one’s Chanuka gelt for charity. Nowadays instead of just receiving coinage, presents are bought and bestowed. Usually one big gift and the other smaller items. I’ve shared before about my family’s tradition of playing a hot and cold search for the hidden presents. This year I made a list of where I hid the gifts. My Mom used to find some of our gifts years later but the laugh we got then was worth much more than the items!

Whew I bought the last couple of rolls !

This year I ran out of wrapping paper! Finally after numerous calls, I discovered a couple rolls at Target. Natureman didn’t realize my wrapping woes so I had placed his gifts unwrapped around the house.

Natureman hadn’t noticed my unwrapped additions and when asked by his children if he was going to go look for his evening’s gift he replied he must not be receiving any. I stated that they were there, he just had to look for them. The next day he was touching and eyeing the lovely new pillar blue candle and asking if I had bought it on sale ( He’s the one who loves lighting candles any meal time so many times I buy candles at garage sales) I replied “No, actually I didn’t because I saw it and knew it’d be perfect during Chanuka and you actually have found one of your Chanuka gifts.” He was taken aback. Oh, the joys of finding an unwrapped gift!

May the light of the season bring light and some peace as gifts into all our worlds wrapped / unwrapped…


Well if you’ve still got Turkey Day leftovers in your fridge it just might be time to toss those babies out as they are probably growing some awfully funky mold by now. It’s difficult to explain expiration dates to Balto, our husky/shepherd house dog.

Waiting to be let in… No way

Lately Balto has been leaving the comfort of our home’s perimeter and venturing out into the woods which surround us here in the End of the Rainbow Valley. He must have caught a special scent on one of his 2 mile walks to the mailbox with Natureman.

Guess he has been returning to check it out as he brought home part of his find…

I wouldn’t open the door until he cooperated by dropping it. He hesitated, but obliged.

Oh my! This Thanksgiving leftover was not coming inside.

Sorry, Balto.

So does your pet bring you treasures too?

Share your stories… Heck, I know you have some good ones!

Last week’s FOTO FRIDAY was about being SOCKED. Here’s the link in case you missed it:


There is one food staple we need a lot of during Chanuka besides oil and it’s potatoes. In our household they tend to be a little more work because we grow our own. Homegrown potatoes tend to keep better for us if they are air dried rather than scrubbing them clean for storage.

Therefore, we still need to clean them as we need them. Flicking off larger dried mud before placing them in a sinkful of water expediates the process. Our potato scrub brush definitely gets a good workout at Chanuka when the traditional dish of latkes ( potato pancakes) is a must. This year I tried a new recipe called Apple Latkes that still uses potatoes but it also uses, yes, you guessed it, apples.

I’ve included the NY TIMES recipe if you want to try them.


6 T sour cream or Greek yogurt
¼ t ground cinnamon
½ t maple syrup
2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled & cored
1 lg russet potato, peeled
1 med yellow onion, peeled
⅔ c all-purpose flour
3 lg eggs
2 t kosher salt
1 ¼ t baking powder
½ t black pepper
Olive oil for frying


  1. In small bowl, whisk together sour cream or yogurt, cinnamon and syrup. Cover and chill until ready to use. (I switched this step to #2)
  2. Coarsely grate apples, potato and onion. Put mixture in clean dish towel and squeeze to wring out as much liquid as possible. I used a strainer first so it could drip while measuring out other ingredients and letting oil heat up. Then, I hand squeezed it.* For the crispiest pancakes, you want the least moisture.
  3. Put the mixture in large bowl, add flour, eggs, salt, baking powder and pepper, and mix until flour is absorbed.
  4. In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, pour in about 1/4 inch of oil. Once oil is hot (a drop of batter placed in the pan should sizzle), drop heaping tablespoons of batter into the pan, cooking 3 to 4 latkes at a time. Use a spatula to flatten the scoops into disks. When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes, flip them. Cook until second side is deeply browned, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer latkes to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
  5. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with toppings.

I like making them ahead. You can freeze them/ leave in fridge overnight. Before serving preheat oven to 350 and let latkes cook and brown ~ 10-15 minutes more. Keep an eye on them.

This year these have been served with 4 topping possibilities.

Yogurt/ Sour Cream with Maple Syrup and Cinnamon


Cranberry and Raspberry Jam

Sour Cream with Chives

Apple Sauce


Apple Latkes with Dollops of Cinnamon Maple Syrup Sour Cream


Oh no, there’s trouble in the End of the Rainbow Valley . I caught Chanuka Harry and Larry on the live cam hiding out in the herbs spying on a new guest.

It was obvious they were up to no good but would the Tomte hold his own with two against one.

Unsuspecting Tom T

Was this Scandinavian gnome aware of these 2 elves and the shenanigans of which they were capable ?

He spotted tham too late.

Boom! Down he went as the two had rigged a trap with my ear buds no less. I have a feeling they shouldn’t be laughing as they will be suffering for messing with this guy…


You see, Tomte translated ‘Homestead Man’ although Swedish in origin has a Norwegian counterpart Nisse derived from Nils. These gnomes live on farms choosing to take care of horses. They tend to be mischievous but can be mean spirited if mistreated. We could be in real trouble!

Let me digress a bit more as in time they would adopt a goat to help them deliver presents on Christmas. You know there are Santa’s helpers, right? Well in Scandinavia they are these gnomes. Santa can’t do it all alone in one night. Remember our coulee region had a large Norwegian settler population of which they left many descendants including the gnomes.

Anyhow, I went straight to the herb wash tub and untangled a very frustrated gnome whom I named Tom T on the spot. Made up some loose hot cream of wheat with butter. That’s what’s normally left out for the Tomtes. Gee, gimme a break, I never expected a gnome would visit our jewish hobby farm/homestead as Natureman calls it. You know Tom T must have been disappointed to find our goats missing too as they are still at our neighbors.

Chanuka Harry and Larry were nowhere to be found. But I don’t think we ‘ve heard the end of this yet even with a well fed Tom T…


We definitely began celebrating the holidays early being the receivers of so many kindnesses. Thank you to those of you who have visited, called, emailed, texted, sent cards, notes, packages/offered help. Some offers were taking up on with others put on a back burner for a later date.

So many have blessed us with kindnesses these last 6 weeks with different kinds of sustenance from gastronomic to mental. From a liquid diet back to a regular diet we’ve benefited filling our stomachs and souls. Receiving gifts of food allowed me to take a much needed long breath from food planning and prep. Your presence/ presents/ communication have brought smiles.

‘Don’t even want to try to list everybody with the possibility of omitting someone. But what I can say is Natureman was converted back into the bar mitzvah boy as he had the pleasure of taking care of ‘thank you’ notes. It got him off the computer and became part of his day and recuperation.

Some packages remain unopened as we will get to them during Chanuka this week. On the first night of Chanuka, friends arrived with probably the ‘most’ unique gift which we can safely say we are the ‘only’ folks in our ‘hood to have.

A Positive Energy Transformer

You know Natureman’s generally a pretty positive, optimistic guy but the big C has been known to interfere… Fortunately, sculptor friend Hans has a solution for those moments as he invented and designs positive energy transformers in addition to much, much larger pieces of art. This small transformer can be attached to a shirt pocket so Natureman can keep it with him in case of an emergency.

May we all be blessed with all the positive energy we need…

Best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season.


The mischievous elves are back to add to our Chanuka fun. It didn’t take Chanuka Harry and Larry to smell the latkes ( potato pancakes) frying to realize they were also running late to greet the first night of the holiday.

After our End of the Rainbow Valley guests Judy and Hans headed back south towards Prairie du Chien and the dishwasher was running, Natureman received a phone call and I dosed off fireside…

It must have been then that Harry and Larry got busy playing with the decorations/ I didn’t notice until I started turning off lights that they had placed the first candle on the felt menorah but I had a feeling more had trespassed.

Knowing the boys didn’t know about our acquisition of the doggie cam since last year, I decided to check the video footage and saw them playing with the felt candles but knew they weren’t done for the evening…

Sure enough they had moved on to the kitchen island where they helped themselves to Judy’s home baked sweets from dinner. They struggled a while with the snap on lid but determined, figured it out. Better them with the chocolate than Balto, our dog.

Yep, those two were BUSTED!

Oh my, I can only imagine the mischigas (craziness) these two will cause this Chanuka week… Stay tuned.


Timing was perfect for a small package to arrive at the End of the Rainbow Valley in time for Infusion day. A day when comforts are appreciated. Who knew how long we would be sitting and comfort would help the time pass with greater ease…

When I looked at the package’s return address I knew what must be inside as its sender is an avid knitter and the box was the perfect size for one of her knitted pair of socks. It did have my name on the box…

I knew I couldn’t wait to open it for the upcoming holiday, this present would be perfect for today. So I opened it and inside I found…

They are in my colors… What color isn’t in our area rugs???

Beshert , a perfect match, and fit… A gorgeous hand knitted pair of cotton socks. Just what the doctor ordered… Thank you so0000 much Susan!