Lunch: A Simple Charcuterie/Antipasti

As I was about to open a can of soup for us, Curt said, “Did you forget I was going to prepare a charcuterie for lunch?” I had forgotten.

He and a friend had gone antiqueing and junking yesterday in Door County. However it is morel mushroom season in Wisconsin so there are other fine goodies to be had in Door County besides old postcards and interesting farm tools. Along with the cherry butter he bought me, he had picked up a basket of morels. Some of those mushrooms had been designated for today’s lunch.

Now technically, a charcuterie is a platter of cured and prepared meats, sausages and patés, along with some cheeses. Our only meat was a dry cured salami. Thus I am suggesting we also had antipasti even thought this was the meal and not the entrée or ‘appetizer’.

plattersThe plate on the left has toasted baguette slices topped with butter-fried morels.

The plate on the right has blanched green beans and Michele’s Polish Tomatoes. That is tomato slices with salt, pepper, sugar and dill. Our friend Michele in Indiana served us these some 30 odd years ago and they are a fine simple preparation.

Since this was lunch, an iced tea and a paper napkin was all that was needed before we started to eat. We will save that can of soup for another day.



One more bird story. Promise. (for now) But this is a good one and it demonstrates why I love to go birding with my son.

First, a little about the bird, the American Woodcock. This bird is very secretive and has excellent camouflage so for the most part you are going to hear him before you see him, if you see him at all. An exception to this rule was a woodcock who took up residence right under a window at our friend’s house. He called us and said, “Hey, we got some weird bird here under our window.” We rushed over and was amazed to see a woodcock. Usually they look like this:

There's a woodcock in this picture. See the outline on the right picture.

There’s a woodcock in this picture. See the outline in the picture below.

hiddenThe one under their window looked like this:


Still blends in pretty well but he moved around so he was spotted

If you are trying to find a woodcock, you go out at dusk, starting at the end of March, in a likely habitat. A brushy field is good. Then you listen. If one is in the area he will make a peent! sound, then about 6 seconds later another peent!. This goes on for a while and then he will take off in a crazy zig zag flight (his wings make a twilling sound) and then land pretty much back where he started and call again. He’s looking for a lady friend. Some years we have heard the peent! and one year we heard the flight sound and a dark object whipping through the sky ( just barely). But this year we have had no luck.

Okay. Flash back to Sunday evening, May 10, La Crosse, Wisconsin. My husband and son and I have spent all day birding and now we have gone to dinner in La Crosse. No tiny town. It was Mother’s Day, busy downtown, cars, bars, general ambient sound. It is dusk and we are leaving the restaurant, talking and laughing, while we walk to the car and suddenly my son Nathan says, “Woodcock!” and stops.



“What?” Here? In town?” I say.

“Yes, listen”, he replies.

We shut up and listen.   “PEENT!”   “PEENT!”

Yep, he heard a woodcock.* They don’t usually make that sound when they fly so it must have been sitting on a roof. We don’t know. But Nathan heard him. And then so did we. I love my son.


*revision: After further consideration based on habitat Nathan feels he heard a Nighthawk. Everything else I spoke about applies. Difficult to find and mostly active at dusk. Calls extremely similar. He still heard it over the noise of the city.

Finding Birds: Target – Warblers

The weather turned on us. Overcast, cool, breezy.

Mississippi River marshes

Mississippi River marshes

Our next two stops were Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday and Wyalusing State Park on Monday. Both of these parks are along the Mississippi River on the western side of the state. Trempelaeu is near La Crosse, Wisconsin; Wyalusing is further south. Sunday started out not too bad but as the day wore on it got cooler and windier. A front was moving in and with it cooler air and eventually rain overnight. But the birders continued to pursue the elusive warblers.

Not posed, this is how the guys really look while they are looking

Not posed, this is how the guys really look while they are looking

Unfortunately the warblers must have been huddling under their covers hoping spring would arrive. We only got four new ones for the day: american redstart, yellow warbler, northern waterthrush, and Wilson’s warbler. All great birds but we were hoping for larger numbers. Yes, a waterthrush is a warbler and I managed to get a picture of him as he hunted through a mudflat.

Northern waterthrush

Northern waterthrush

Of course while we are searching for warblers we also look at everything else that flies, crawls or walks past us. Least flycatcher, Blue/gray gnatcatcher, and an Orchard oriole completed the rest of the day.

Orchard oriole, a deeper cinnamon red than the Baltimore

Orchard oriole, a deeper cinnamon red than the Baltimore

Monday we went to Wyalusing State Park. We had high hopes because there are some sparrows and warblers that are only seen in this area. But the day didn’t even start out well. It was already cool, 57, and it just got cooler. By the time we were done with lunch it was 52. Birds still have to eat so we saw a few beauties but once again the numbers were low. Prothonotary warbler topped today’s list, followed by a Blackpoll. I’ve linked you to a view of a Prothonotary because getting a picture of a warbler takes the patience of a National Geographic photographer.

A highlight of this park is a view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers.

Confluence: the joining of two rivers

Confluence: the joining of two rivers

Another notable thing here is a monument to the last Wisconsin Passenger Pigeon. We paid our respects. Look up Passenger Pigeon, it is a sad story about the elimination of a species.pigeonNo photos of sightings today but for those of you keeping track we saw: red-headed woodpecker, indigo bunting, yellow-throated warbler, scarlet tanager and veery.

Oh wait, it looks like they’ve found another good one. Time to grab my binoculars and join the guys.


Finding Birds: Crex Meadows

While searching for promising birding sites Curt discovered Crex Meadows Wildlife Area which is about 2 hours north of Eau Claire* where my son lives. So this morning we picked up our son Nathan at 8:00 AM and headed out.crexAt 30,000 acres, Crex is one of the largest state owned wildlife areas in Wisconsin. The area is a combination of wetlands, prairie and woods so we were hoping for a wide variety of birds. As we got closer I started going through my directions and maps but once we got to Grantsburg, the town adjacent to Crex we saw this sign.followNice. But what goose? Well it was really geese and they were painted on the road every block or so, or at an intersection if you had to make a turn. Very clever. I put my map away.goose2This was also Global Bird Day so we were counting every bird we saw in order to submit it to Cornell Lab of Ornithology to be added to the cumulative world list. I’m sure we didn’t see anything unique but it was a lot of fun. For the day we found 48 species (pretty low over all), 34 of those were just at Crex, 11 were new to our yearly list. Some highlights were a common loon, eastern towhee, vesper sparrow, field sparrow, solitary sandpiper and a spotted sandpiper. Many of the birds we saw just wouldn’t pose for the camera. Here are few that did.

Horned grebe, female and male

Horned grebe, female and male

Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan

Green Heron

Green Heron

That’s all for today. Tomorrow onward to Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge.

*unless otherwise indicated all towns, refuges and wildlife areas mentioned are in Wisconsin.

Finding Birds: Migration 2015

If reading about birds bores the heck out of you, the next four posts are going to put you to sleep. I’ll see you readers in about a week. For the rest of you, today we started a five day birding trip across Wisconsin from Green Bay to Eau Claire. From there we are visiting wildlife areas from Grantsburg, WI down to Wyalusing. Hopefully we will be seeing a lot of birds and some of them will pose for pictures.

Here are today’s highlights. First stop was Bergstrom Marsh off of highway 54 near Black Creek. This is a pretty big marsh where in the past we have seen ten different waterfowl at one time, short-eared owls and black terns. Today wasn’t that dramatic but we had some nice sightings.

First, goslings have hatched. We saw at least four different clutches with Mom and Dad guarding their every move. Even though I was in the car this gander is questioning my right to look at him and his.

"You looking at me?"

“You looking at me?”

Further into the marsh we came upon white pelicans. On the left a large group was flying over and then came in for a landing. Here is one hitting the water.landingOn the right, there was a group just swimming on the water. At first I couldn’t figure what was happening because I was just looking at them without my binoculars. Pelicans are pretty big so you can see them easily with the naked eye. But until I raised the binoculars I didn’t realize they were feeding. And on top of that, it was breezy and the wind was blowing their tale feathers as they raised their rumps into the air. So cool.

Bottoms up!

Bottoms up!

Finally the new bird we saw for our yearly list was one of the best, a yellow headed blackbird. They sit a long way off on the cattails so having a good zoom lens is a must. This was the best shot but I think you get the idea. Let’s hope the next couple of days are as successful.

A jewel in the marsh

A jewel in the marsh

Fried Chicken

Do you ever get tired of gluten free, fat free, raw, whole grain, baked not fried, low carb, ….blah, blah, blah. All of that is good, sure, but sometimes you just get a hankering for….fried chicken. Curt had that urge last week. I bet as a kid I had fried chicken at least twice a month. But now I couldn’t remember when we last had fried chicken, not even the Colonel’s, so damn it, it was time!

Curt decided to use just boneless thighs and breasts. He first seasoned the chicken with three blended seasonings from Penzey’s Spices, Balti, Mural of Flavor and Tandoori.
spiceBalti: coriander,garlic, ginger, cumin, Ceylon cinnamon, mustard, cardamom, clove,fennel,fenugreek,chamushka, star anise, cilantro, anise seed and bay leaf

Mural of Flavor: 12 spices and herbs, shallots,onion, garlic,lemon peel, chives, orange peel

Tandoori: coriander, cumin, paprika, garlic, ginger, cardamom, saffron

Then the chicken was drenched in flour which had been seasoned with paprika, turmeric and salt and pepper. The pieces then went into buttermilk and back into the flour mixture.

chicken2Once the oil was at 350 degrees, the chicken went in.

chicken1After ten minutes, turn.

chicken4Now 8 – 10 minutes on this side. Once you deem it cooked through, drain on some paper towels and put on a serving plate. Now don’t get distracted by the local news on the television in your kitchen because your fried chicken will get a bit dark like ours. The good thing is it still tasted wonderful. We had ours with cole slaw and bisquits. Yum. Today -fried chicken, tomorrow -back to salad.


Another Turn of the Page: Because it’s Still too Chilly to Garden

“It’s the same thing when I’m gardening or reading. It’s just me and what I’m doing,
or the world I’m reading, and nothing else.”
Jennifer L. Armentrout, Onyx

greenbksMaybe I should have quoted T.S. Eliot instead, “April is the cruelest month.”  We had a couple of great days. Warm enough to get into the yard and do some raking. Plant some onions, paint the deck. And then, SLAP! It got cold and chilly and windy and back in the house I went. However, I could still read about raking and planting and painting or anything else I wanted to, no matter what the temperature. So take that April!!

The forecast is for warmer weather next week so today I best get caught up on my reading before the garden calls to me. Here’s what the book group read in April while they waited for Spring:

april151. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (2014) 368 pages. I presented the author Alice Hoffman because I had read this book. How the lives of two very different people intertwine. Coralee, daughter of the impresario of a “freak show”. She also performs in the show. And Eddie, son of a Jewish immigrant. He is a photographer who shoots the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

2. The Wild Truth: The Untold Story of Sibling Survival by Carine McCandless (2014) 256 pages. The author is the younger sister of Chris McCandless, the young man who went into the wilderness of Alaska and never returned. His story was made famous in the book, “Into the Wild.

3. I Got Cancer but Cancer didn’t Get Me by Nick Nesvacil (2014) 140 pages. The gal who reviewed this enjoys reading books about local issues. Nick, the author, details some of the tools cancer patients and their support teams will need, and shares the story of STINGCANCER, the student-driven support group he founded in his role as a teacher and coach at Preble High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

4. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Biography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill (2014) 400 pages. Using additional manuscripts, letters, photographs, newspapers, and other sources, award-winning Wilder biographer Pamela Smith Hill adds valuable context and leads readers through Wilder’s growth as a writer.

5. Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich (2011) 305 pages. Yes, number 18 in the Stephanie Plum series. And Evanovich has still got it.

6. Remembering Mother, Finding Myself: A Journey of Love and Self-Acceptance by Patricia Commins (1999) 275 pages. A book about understanding our mothers as women and feeling an ongoing connection with them.

7. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2015) 336 pages. A thriller very much like Gone Girl. You won’t like any of these people and make sure that you don’t believe anything they say. It starts out slow but at one point you won’t be able to put it down.( I just finished reading it before I wrote this and it was better than Gone Girl.)

8. When Books went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Manning (2014) 288 pages. The story of a program that delivered millions of books to Americans in the military overseas during World War II.

9. Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie (2014) 416 pages. A historical novel about the invention of moveable type told from the point of view of the three men responsible, Peter Schoeffer, Johann Fust and Johann Gutenberg. Fascinating.

Sometimes… Demonic Control

Manual of Field Geology

A standard college level Field Geology textbook

Jeanne and I volunteer at our local library sorting books for the semi-annual Friends of the Library book sale.  These are books that have been withdrawn from the library collection for various reasons or donated books that citizens have given to our Friends group for our book sale. As we sort the books into one of 46 different categories we occasionally come across something of note; something amusing, maybe shocking or possibly just puzzling.

This is the first of a series of occasional posts about those finds, and that we will present without judgement and with little comment.

Sometimes… we just find stuff.

Manual of Field Geology and the Forbidden Secrets of Demonic ControlManual of Field Geology and the Forbidden Secrest of Demonic Control

Justified, Corn Slaw and Bourbon

Raylan & Boyd

Raylan & Boyd

Last night we joined friends, Richard and Patricia, for the finale of Justified. If you are not familiar with Justified, it is a series on FX and that is based on a story by Elmore Leonard. Briefly it’s the “adventures” of Raylan Givens, a Federal Marshal who is part lawman, part killer (in the name of the law of course) and Boyd Crowder, all around drug dealer, bank robber, preacher, general bad guy and killer (not in the name of the law). They are also charmers, sweet-talkers and skinny as hell. For the past five seasons we have joined our friends for dinner, alternating cooking duties, and have watched the happenings in the hollers and the mine and the towns of Harlan County Kentucky. It has been a fun ride.

Last night our dinner for the final shootout was sandwiches and slaw. Not just any sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches. Not just any grilled cheese sandwiches, smoked turkey, caramelized fennel, gala apple jam and Gruyère grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh lord, were they good. Our contribution was salad and Curt decided to go with a corn slaw from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More cookbook. We never relayed to each other what we were making but the two couldn’t have gone together better if we planned it that way. Here’s the slaw with a few variations.

Corn slaw

Corn slaw


7 Tbls white wine vinegar
4.25 cups shredded cabbage
3 small carrots, peeled and cut into fine strips
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh corn (or frozen if you don’t have access to fresh)
2 red chiles, finely chopped
We did not have red chiles but our substitute was really good. We used a Tbls of CENTO cherry pepper relish, chopped even finer.
1 1/3 cups cilantro leaves
2/3 cup mint leaves
olive oil
Salt & pepper

Put the vinegar and a scant cup of water in a small saucepan along with one Tbls of salt. Bring to boil then remove from heat. Place the cabbage and carrots in a bowl and pour in 2/3 of the salty liquid. In a separate bowl, pour the remaining liquid over the onion and set both bowls aside. After 20 minutes, rinse the vegetables and onion well, pat dry. Place together in a salad bowl.

If you are using fresh corn, grill it in a pan, cool and cut from cob and add to the salad bowl. Or cook your frozen corn till just al dente. Cool and put in salad bowl.

Cherry pepper relish

Cherry pepper relish


3 1/2 Tbls mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbls lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together, pour over the salad and stir gently. Add the chile, cilantro and mint, along with a grind of pepper. Give it another stir and serve.

Notes: I’ve mentioned what we did for chiles. We were short on corn so we only had about 1 1/2 cups in our salad but the full amount of corn would have been great. Also we used a little more carrot.

So what does the bourbon in my title refer to? Well, Justified is set in Kentucky after all (the bourbon state of America) and they certainly drank enough bourbon in the course of five seasons. So as the last episode progressed and certain deeds were done and particular characters bit the dust we sipped our Knob Creek straight bourbon whiskey. And when the final credits ran we tossed back our final shot.

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Let the Birding Begin!

statesignTruth be told we have been birding since January 1 when we looked out our window and saw downy woodpeckers and juncos and chickadees sitting on our bird feeders. But now we are on the edge of the spring migration and all those birds that went south for the winter (smart birds) are starting their trek north, back to the breeding grounds. So if you are a birder, you need to get out a couple of times a week this time of year to glimpse these travelers. Many will stay in Wisconsin, many will continue on. Catching a sight of the ones who will head further north is the goal.

Weather of course plays a big roll and many areas got snow yesterday and the birds don’t like it anymore than we do. Snow doesn’t stay long this time of year but its still cold at night and the insects aren’t waking up yet. The birds who enjoy a bug or two for dinner will be coming much later. Fortunately, we have a lot of open water right now which makes this a prime time to find waterfowl.

It was mild today by Wisconsin’s standards ( lower 50’s, little wind) so we drove out to a big marsh near here. They recently put up a new sign. The snow was gone by the time we arrived.


If you decide to try a trip like this make sure you have binoculars. Why? Because most birds don’t sit in the ditch right next to the car. Oh, some do, sometimes. But this is usually your view.


This is pretty close to what you see with the naked eye. But put the binoculars up to your eye and wa-la!!! You can see differences in those specks and actually identify them. This next picture was shot with a zoom lens and then I cropped the heck out of it on the computer. But if you were looking through your binocs you would see something like this and it would be less grainy.

from left to right: American Coot, Redhead, Gadwall, American Coot

from left to right: American Coot, Redhead, Gadwall, American Coot

Here’s another shot of the marsh.


And here is my camera shot, cropped and enlarged.

ring-necked ducks

ring-necked ducks

Yeah, I know what you are saying, where is the ring on their necks? Got me. This one confuses me every time I see it. It has a ring around his bill but his name is ring-neck. Just roll with it. Trust me there are a lot of oddly named species. For instance, you can hardly see the pale pink belly on the Red-bellied woodpecker who happens to have a large red patch on the back of his head but ‘redheaded’ woodpecker was already taken.

Final tally today of new birds for this year (not lifers just the first sightings for this year):

– 8 – American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, Ring-necked duck, Eastern Phoebe, White Pelican, American Coot, Great Blue Heron.

Additional sightings today but not firsts: – 14 – Cardinal, Tree Sparrow, Canada Goose, Mallard, Kestrel, Red-wing Blackbird, European Starling, Pigeon, Grackle, Redhead duck, Sandhill Crane, Turkey Vulture, American Robin, Bald Eagle.

Stay-tuned. We have two birding trips scheduled for May. Early May – Mississippi Flyway/Western Wisconsin. Late May – New Brunswick, Canada.