Another Turn of the Page: No Romance for February

“Even though February was the shortest month of the year,
sometimes it seemed like the longest.”
Lorraine Snelling

When you think of February do you think of hearts and candy and flowers and romance? Or is it more like, ‘Another winter month to struggle through, thank the gods it is short’. And then after snow and ice storms and numerous days of below zero wind chills, you start saying, ‘Will it ever end?” If you live in the upper Midwest it is more like the latter. That one day in the middle of the month doesn’t really save the rest of the days. So what to do? Well reading is high on my list. My group, however, is not one for romance and sweetness in their choices of books in the dead of winter. We are more the adventure, war, spies, illness, death and thriller kind of people. How uplifting. Sounds like Finnish Noir. Toss in a few escapist novels and some stories about penguins and elephants and you’ve got the February book offerings. Maybe March will be lighter. Ha!

1. Three Day in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier (2017) 368p. Bret Baier, the Chief Political Anchor for Fox News Channel and the Anchor and Executive Editor of Special Report with Bret Baier, explores the extraordinary yet underappreciated presidency of Dwight Eisenhower by taking readers into Ike’s last days in power.

2. Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River by Peter Heller (2004) 336p. The author of fiction books: Dog Stars, The Painter and Celine, takes on a true life adventure.He joins an elite kayaking team and chronicles their travels from from the banks of the river to the insane portages up neighboring mountain passes. The Tsangpo falls through one of the deepest gorges in the world and a fabled waterfall on its course gave rise the legend of Shangri-La.

3. Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose by Joe Biden (2017) 272p. When Beau Biden, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and his survival was uncertain, he told his father, Joe Biden, “Promise me, Dad, Give me your word, that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Joe gave him his word. In this book, he chronicles the year following leading up to his son’s death and his decision not to seek the presidency. A tearful memoir.

4. George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade (2013) 235p. This is the incredible true story of six spy’s who helped win the American Revolution. I have heard the AMC series: Turn: Washington’s Spies is better than the book. Maybe you should tune in first.

5. Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke (2014) 368p. After serving in the army in the 1920’s, Billy Williams goes to wild, undeveloped Burma to work with elephants. The book is part biography and part nature treatise. Working with the elephants becomes his life’s passion. The book also highlights the many extremes of life in a British Colony: the bugs, the snakes, the malaria, the heat.

6. Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell (2015) 229p. The author’s story of his time 40 years earlier as a house counselor in an Argentine boarding school. While on a trip to the Uraguayan coast, he comes upon hundreds of Magellan penguins that have all been killed by an oil slick – except for one lone penguin, covered in oil, but hanging on to life. He decides to take the penguin back to Argentina and nurse it back to health. 

7. Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (2018) 427p. A mixture of “Girl on a Train” and “Rear Window.” A pulpy, fast-paced thriller. Not deep, just a page-turner for another one of those long, cold winter days.

8. Tips for Living by Renee Shafransky (2018) 332p. When Nora’s husband, Hugh, announces he is leaving her for his pregnant girlfriend she vows to start her life again and not be dragged down by this terrible situation. Three years later she is working as a newspaper columnist in a small town, when her ex and his now wife move into the same town. Nora’s pain and anger return to her all over again. When her ex-husband and his new wife are found dead in their home, clues seem to point to Nora.

9. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (2017) 505p. A historical novel based on a real-life female spy unit, The Alice Network, that operated in France during World War I.

10. In a Dark House by Deborah Crombie  Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James Series #10 (2005) 384p. Just one book in this series of British Police Procedurals featuring Scotland Yard investigators, Kincaid and James. Our reviewer highly recommends this series which begins with A Share in Death.

11. Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan ( 2017) 288p. A unique story about a man who keeps and catalogs the lost things that he finds. His story and the stories of the others who have lost the items intertwine as the book progresses.


While looking for Swans We found a New Restaurant

Right now we are involved in the Great Backyard Bird Count. This is a 4 day worldwide birdwatching deal that anyone can participate in. No matter if you don’t know the names of all the birds, just identify and count the ones you know. And yes, you know more than you think. I know you can identify cardinals, sparrows, goldfinches, seagulls, geese…and if you happen to know more so you can say Northern cardinal, House sparrow, Tree sparrow, Lesser goldfinch, Herring gull, Canada geese, well then, all the better. It’s fun, lasts 4 days (Feb 17 -20) and you can do all four days and watch on and off all day or just one day for 15 minutes and then quit. Today is the last day for this year.

We get a bit more into it, so yesterday since it was 50 degrees on February 19th in NE Wisconsin instead of huddling in our house viewing birds from our windows we decided to take a field trip up to Door County, specifically Baileys Harbor where friends of ours reported seeing Tundra Swans.

BUT, this post is not about birds it is about lunch. Once we got to the town in question, about 60 miles north of here, and, finding no swans anywhere, we looked for a lunch place. In the winter not many places are open up there, especially on a Sunday but we did see a restaurant called Chives which had an OPEN sign in the window. We had heard of this restaurant but thought it was on the west side of the bay of Green Bay. And yes it is, same owner. Friends had given it good reviews. So, with not many other options in sight we went in.

Chives, Baileys Harbor, WI

Chives, Baileys Harbor, WI











It was nice looking inside. First room had seating and a bar but we were taken to a second room that had a very nice view of the Lake Michigan. Later we discovered a small room with couches, casual seating and small tables and a dining area that looked like a library.

Looks like a great place for dinner.

Looks like a great place for dinner.

We had a nice corner seat by the window.

We had a nice corner seat by the window.

The waiter brought the menu that was a combination brunch/lunch. It was sweet and savory/ breakfasty and lunchy.

menuLots of good choices. The menu reminded us of a favorite restaurant we frequent in DePere, WI called The Creamery. When he found out it was a charcuterie, Curt ordered the first item called House-made Grilled Sausage. It was composed of a ramp & morel sausage, three aged cheddars: Dunbarton Blue, Hooks 7 year & Blue Mont. A schmear of brown mustard, a mustard seed caviar and two slices of crusty bread. He paired that with a side salad. He said if he ordered it again he would asked for two sausages because it was excellent.charcuterieI decided on The Bistro which was a grilled cheese sandwich ( Muenster and White cheddar on a rustic bread), soup of the day (white bean and smoked ham) and a salad. The salads were already dressed with an interesting vinaigrette. The soup was wonderful and so hearty I really didn’t need the sandwich but it was great cheese combination and I ate it all.

Sorry, didn't remember to take photos until after I had started in

Sorry, didn’t remember to take photos until after I had started in

Service was very good. We didn’t have to wait long at all for our food. Wait staff was attentive but not overly so. It just was a pleasant lunch all around. If you go, hours are limited because it just isn’t super busy in Door County in the winter. Matter of fact, this is the first winter this restaurant has decided to stay open but it is only Th – Sat: 4pm to close ( dinner service) and Sat/Sun: 9 – 2 (lunch/brunch). Well worth the trip. However if you are looking for swans I hope you have better luck than we did. We did see a lot of Herring gulls, Common crows and Red-tailed hawks. Better luck next time.

Stitching My Way Through the Year

flossWay back in December when the world seemed yet a bit normal I received a post on Facebook from a friend about a project called 1 Year of Stitches. I clicked the link and discovered a very interesting post from a Sara Barnes about joining a group of embroiderers and essentially starting a year-long stitching project and posting one’s progress on Facebook or Instagram or both. She was inspired by another embroiderer who was just finishing her 2016 year. All I had to do was fill out a brief survey, respond with a yes and instructions would appear in my email before 2017 and then we would all get started. By December 22nd I had a response that it was on. I was only just getting a sense of the scope of this project. About a week later the “rules” of the game were sent out.

1. Make at least one stitch every day. (If you can’t do this, it’s okay. At least take a            picture of it that day)
2. Take a picture that shows your project. Don’t get discouraged if progress looks slow (or not at all).
3. Date your picture and write a sentence (or a few words) about the embroidery or your day.
4. Share online—through social media or a blog. On Instagram, tag it with: #1yearofstitches and @1yearofstitches  Post for sure once a week on Sunday.

A private group was set up on Facebook and as mentioned above #1yearofstitches was put on Instagram. Never having used Instagram I decided now might be the time. I do have an account (I guess that is what it is called) but my learning curve is a bit stunted so even though I post I am not really sure how to post from my phone or actually find anyone I am following. Well, least of my worries I guess.

What is really fantastic is the scope of this group. I am not sure of the total participants but the private FB group alone has 2822 members. There are a bunch on Instagram as well, some are duplicates but not all. As to the rules, well everyone got so excited in the beginning they were posting all the time. Sara started to have to dial people back a bit because everyone’s feed was getting clogged with pictures.

Where everyone is from is also amazing. When the first responses started I could see that we were a worldwide mob of stitchers. At some point in week 2? or week 3 someone posted, “Where are you all from?” Replies came from almost every state in the US, almost every province in Canada and tons of Australians. I also saw notes from New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Scotland, Iceland, England, Poland, India, So. Africa, Israel and the Czech Republic. I am sure there are many I missed. We were a worldwide group of women, men and children all connected by embroidery floss. And once the pictures started appearing it was apparent we were also people with a wide range of talent. Some are rank beginners who said they always wanted to try embroidery, others have been doing this for years and are very proficient. Some have exquisite technique while others who have minimal technique and range are fabulous artists. Some are literally trying many different embroidery stitches, others are sticking to one or two or they are quilting or cross-stitching or adding beads. And it is all good because we have this interesting connection, this common language of thread and fiber. Here are a few of my favorites.

Starting upper left and going clockwise: Dartford, UK - Sheffield, UK - Utrecht, Netherlands - Toronto, Ontario - Pennsylvania, US - Wexham, UK.

Starting upper left and going clockwise: Dartford, UK – Sheffield, UK – Utrecht, Netherlands – Toronto, Ontario – Pennsylvania, US – Wexham, UK.

I put my self smack in the middle. I am using just a few stitches and concentrating on imagery. Also being in the season of winter I have time to work on the piece a lot. (It is 7 degrees outside today with a stiff breeze). I decided to divide my piece into months but I am almost done with February already.

My piece, Week 5

My piece, Week 5

So I started a second piece just to keep my hands busy and off the yearly project. I am doing it entirely in a stitch called knotless netting, a stitch I learned in graduate school where I studied under Renie Breskin Adams. I forgot how much I loved this stitch till I started working with it again.

Other piece, working title: Garden Dreams

Other piece, working title: Garden Dreams

So along with journals, knitting, travel, working out, reading and trying to avoid politics, that is how I am spending my winter and also, it looks like, my year. It is a very welcome distraction.

What a Difference a Day (or two) Makes

Winter. Snow. Bitter cold.

We were tired of it. Just when you got a normal temp day (for us that was the upper 20’s) Bam! the next day it was high of 10 with a wind chill of -20. End of February, early March might produce snow but the bitter cold was just tiring. We even had a frozen water pipe this year. Then, just when we were at the end of our patience, the trend broke. We were promised normal March temps, 30’s, which turned into 40’s, which almost got to 50 today. When these “warm” days were announced I decided to take some pictures to record the change. It didn’t take long. Below is the change from Friday to Sunday. I took my pictures at 5:15 pm each day, with Daylight Saving Time intervening.The first sequence is the large field across the road from our house. The second sequence is the front of our house.

Friday,March 6, 5:15 pm, CDT

Friday, March 6, 5:15 pm, CDT

Saturday, March 7, 5:15 pm, CDT

Saturday, March 7, 5:15 pm, CDT

Sunday, March 8, 5:15pm, Central DST

Sunday, March 8, 5:15pm, Central DST


Mar. 6,7,8 - 5:15 pm

Mar. 6,7,8 – 5:15 pm

Granted we haven’t had snow like Boston, which is pretty weird since this is Wisconsin, so the snow melt has gently seeped into the ground. No floods. One year though we did have huge amounts of snow and that field across the way became a pond. It was a little later into Spring and that water attracted migrating birds. We had our own viewing station from the comfort of our home. This year it looks like a hike in the woods will be required.

So cheer up points east of us, the warmer weather is on its way.

Another Turn of the Page: Beginning the Year

“I disappear into books. What’s your superpower?” -Anonymous


Our January meeting always has fewer people. Mostly because many are snowbirds and have flown to their respective nests in the southlands, but we were also lessened this month by illness. The flu has been flying about and seems to have caught some of our members. The others probably said,”yuk, it’s cold! and pulled the covers higher.”

But the magnificent seven who met had some good books to share. Pete started us off with a brief report on Richard Paul Evans. Best known for writing fiction with conservative Christian themes and strong family values, he’s a real Hallmark kind of writer. And though those books are not my reading choice, I have to give this author credit for using his money to found The Christmas Box House International, an organization devoted to building shelters and providing services for abused and neglected children.

So on to the books of January:

January1. The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans (2014) 251 pages. Pete who did our author recommends this book by Evans. It is about two people with painful secrets who meet during the Christmas holidays and decide to sign a contract pretending to be a couple to help each other get through the holidays. This book received favorable reviews from men and women alike.

2. Longbourn by Jo Baker (2013) 332 pages. Are you a Downton Abbey fan? A Jane Austen lover? Then you’ll probably enjoy this view of the belowstairs world of Pride and Prejudice.

3. The Chili Queen by Sandra Dallas (2002) 304 pages. An entertaining story about Addie French and her bordello called The Chili Queen, with a setting in the New Mexico territory of the 1880’s. Much more than a story set in a “hookhouse”..and they serve great chili too.

4. Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar (2014) 320 pages. The San Jos mine collapsed outside of Copiap, Chile, in August 2010. As the subtitle states, this is “the untold stories of the 33 men who were buried and the miracle that set them free.” Fascinating, but you may want to pass on this one if you suffer from claustrophobia.

5. Mercy Falls by William Kent Krueger (2005) 434 pages. I decided to read this author upon recommendation from one of our members. He writes regional mysteries set in far Northern Minnesota featuring Cork O’Connor, the sheriff of a small town. I picked up this one ( #5 in the series) at a booksale and immediately got engrossed. And then at the “end”, found out it was the first of a two-parter!  My suggestion, start at the beginning of the series with Iron Lake. And when you get to Mercy Falls make sure you have quick access to Copper River.

6. The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne (2013) 291 pages. This book is a big surprise because it is so much more than the story of a librarian. Josh Hanagarne is 6’7″, a librarian, a Mormon and a sufferer of Tourette’s Syndrome. Oh yeah, and he uses body-building as a way to help control his Tourettes. Funny and entertaining…you are going to love this guy.

7. Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks (2014) 336 pages. Catherine Lemay, a young archeologist, is hired by the Smithsonian to survey a Montana river canyon before a dam project gets the okay. Why she was hired and who helps her becomes tangled with stories of WWII survivors, Indian politics, prehistoric relics and wild horses.

8. Still Life with Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen (2014) 272 pages. An unlikely “coming of age” story and love story because the main character, photographer Rebecca Winter, is a woman in her 60’s. Reviews were very mixed, even from people who are fans of Quindlen.


Pole Sitting

Typical sighting. Can you find the Snowy owl? Answer at end of post.

Typical sighting. Can you find the Snowy owl? Answer at end of post.

This year the birding reports from organizations like Audubon, Wisconsin Society of Ornithology and Cornell Lab of Ornithology have all said this is going to be a good year for sighting Snowy owls. We have been out scouting for owls in our area and found one about a week ago. He/she was really far out sitting in a field but once we got him/her in our binoculars, we confirmed it as a Snowy. But too far for our camera lens. We dutifully reported the bird on ibird and Wiscbird where other birders post their sightings. Great sources for locating interesting birds.

When we opened Wiscbird this morning, we read that a local birder had seen three Snowys over by the airport. Well we were about to head out to our winter farmer’s market so why not try for some owls when we were done shopping?

Well we didn’t get one owl….we got two!!!

First one was a white bump on a fence post.

firstsnowyAs we edged closer he dropped down into the field but fortunately flew back up so I could get a better shot (below) which I have cropped and sharpened here. Good binoculars can give you a good look like this. And I say “him” because this owl is very white whereas the females are more streaky on their breast.firstsnowy2Once we had this guy we continued on since three had been spotted in this general area. We scanned the fields and then turned down a dead end road. As we turned I asked my husband to check the white lump on top of a telephone pole about a 1/4 mile away from us. His first call was it looked like an insulator. What I was seeing looked awfully big, even from this distance, to be an insulator. So he checked again. This time he realized he was looking at the wrong pole. Yep! another Snowy. We turned around and scooted closer.snowy2Here he was, perched on the pole and looking straight at us. This picture is cropped so you can see him better. However, we decided to slowly get closer. He never moved so this next picture is not cropped just straightened a bit since I was shooting straight up and out of the passenger side window of the car. Sweet!


Snowy Owl, Pine Tree Rd., Hobart, WI

Looks like it is going to be a good year for owls. If you are interested in a map of current sightings of owls in the upper Midwest click here.


The Punks are Absolutely Done

No kids at home anymore. No grandkids on the near horizon. But at Halloween I still like to turn pumpkins into Jack-o-Lanterns. This year I wasn’t so sure I was going to get it done since I had surgery on Oct 15 and I was told by my doctor to, “Take it Easy!! No lifting!!” A couple of days before my date with the doctor, our neighbor, who had grown pumpkins in his garden this year, asked me if I wanted a few. Great, I said. So he and his daughter drove over with pumpkins on his trailer and told me I could have as many as I liked. Not to be greedy, I chose four.

In the back of my mind was the thought that I might not be able to wrangle these guys around this year but when I mentioned my habit of putting the Jack-o-Lanterns across the road, his daughter smiled and nodded. Well of course I had to do it.

I was good, I took it easy. I had Curt put the pumpkins up on the table and once the cutting was done, he put them outside. About a week after Halloween the punks went across the road. Here are the Punks fresh from Halloween.

Fresh Punks

Fresh Punks

Then Curt cleaned up the garden and we had some extra squash so the some of the gang got hats.

Punks w/ squash

Punks w/ squash

Everybody was holding up pretty good. Mainly because we had a couple of weeks of a nasty cold snap. Normal highs: 40. Our highs: 22. It even snowed. But the freezing cold weather kept the Punks upright and smiling.

Frozen Punks

Frozen Punks

This weekend disaster hit. Well it was great for us. Mid 40’s. Heck, we were looking for our shorts and flip-flops. (Seriously I saw someone dressed like that…well, yes it was a college student). However when it gets that warm anything that is frozen will thaw especially pumpkins and this was the sight that greeted me this morning.

Oh noooo!

Oh noooo!

Hats had fallen as well as faces. The punk on the left really did a face plant.

It is raining now which is going to really help these guys along but I’m putting my money on the tall one to hang in there till Christmas.

A Trip to Wisconsin: Don’t forget to Pack the Blue Vitriol

Make it stop!

Make it stop!

The wind, the wind! The blowing, the creaking of the house, the whistling of the windows! Will it ever stop? The constant, never-ending scream of the wind. Arrgh! Get the blue vitriol.

Photo: Wisconsin Death Trip

Photo from: Wisconsin Death Trip

Well it is windy. I think the weatherman said 20mph, gusts to 35. And it is cold this morning, 24, but its been colder. My house is creaking and some of the windows are whistling – note to self: get those replaced – but its supposed to end by noon. My furnace is fine, my fridge is full and my Sweetie is warming up the espresso machine so I really don’t have anything to complain about. But the whining of the wind this morning reminded me of a strange book called Wisconsin Death Trip. If you have not come across this book in your travels, it is worth the journey.

Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy

Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy

First published in 1973, This book by Michael Lesy, is based on a collection of glass plate negatives taken by Charles Van Schaik in Black River Falls, Wisconsin from 1890 – 1910. The subject matter ranges from children in coffins, to farm animals, to family portraits of some of the grimmest-looking people imaginable. These are coupled with newspaper excerpts of suicides, murder/suicides, madness and misery. This period of history in the US was tough, because if you were either making your fortune or you were having a really bad time. The distance between city folk and country folk was pretty wide and the country people weren’t doing too well. There was drought, foreclosures, and poverty, and in Wisconsin, the weather didn’t help anyone’s attitude either. It gets cold, really cold, and it snows, a lot, and back then you had a bunch of kids to feed and you had cows or other animals to feed and wood to chop and water to thaw. When the wind whistled, it whistled loud and found every crack in the house. We are having a lot of pipe freezing this winter up here, and its a pain and a big inconvenience but back in 1893, you couldn’t just wrap the pipe in heat tape or use the hair dryer, hell, you had a well that froze up. Just going outside to get the water was a big ordeal, not to mention hauling it over to the barn once you dug a path through the snow. And then you had to go out to the barn a couple of times a day to make sure the trough hadn’t frozen over. If the well froze, you were melting snow.

from Wisconsin Death Trip

from Wisconsin Death Trip

And then there were the epidemics (smallpox, diphtheria), alcoholism, gangs of armed tramps, barn burnings…. well it isn’t surprising that old Ben hung himself after offing the family or Sarah drank blue vitriol when she discovered she was pregnant – again!. When I read this book for the first time, probably in the early 80’s, the reference to blue vitriol was new to me. And it came up more than once in Wisconsin Death Trip. Sure people were hanging themselves, using garden tool in unique ways, jumping in the lake with rocks in their pockets but drinking blue vitriol? I found out it is copper sulfate ( copper and sulfuric acid) but what the heck were they doing with it on the farm in the early 20th C.? It was pretty common on the farm since it was a fungicide, insecticide and a blue dye. Interesting enough, it was also used as an emetic, drink a little-you vomit….drink a lot-you die.

Because it just sounded so odd, it became one of those phrases you use in a family that if outsiders heard you they’d scratch their heads or have you committed. With us, whenever things got crazy around here or the wind didn’t stop blowing for 10 hours straight or you had a bad day at work, you’d say something like, “I can’t take it, where’s the blue vitriol.?” Sounds creepy? Maybe. But for us it was a way to lighten up a stressful situation. Too bad those farm wives in 1901 didn’t think that way. To them drink actually meant drink.

Now this may all sound pretty morbid and yes, some of it is, but this book is also fascinating. It will give you a different perspective on the “good old days.” Of course not everyone was behaving like this but some were. And it wasn’t just in Black River Falls, it was happening in other towns in Wisconsin, and in Iowa, and in Nebraska, and in Minnesota.

So hang in there. Winter will be over someday. The pipes will thaw. The wind will die down. No need to get out the hedge clippers, the rope or the blue vitriol.

PS: If you like Wisconsin Death Trip you might enjoy two fiction books that pull inspiration from WDT, A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick and
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.


What to do when it is 14 degrees below zero

BAKE. Yes, fans and friends, we are back to what we do best, prepare some yummy food. Since it is me and not my Sweetie, we’ll be having dessert today. He’s the savory, spicy one of our duo.

Some foodie friends recently introduced me to a new cookbook, PIES: Sweet and Savory by Caroline Bretherton. I immediately got it from the library because I like to look at a book like this first, try some recipes and get the feel for it, before I plunk down dollars to make it my own. So far this book has a lot of potential. It’s filled with meat pies, quiches, filo pies, tortes and tarts. Some of the pot pies look great and I will revisit them soon but the recipe that first caught my eye was the Apple Tourte with Nuts and Raisins. They describe it as a French”pielike” classic, I think it is more cakelike. The picture was great, and I’m a sucker for pictures, so off I went to gather my ingredients.

7 Tbsp unsalted butterapple torte
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup self-rising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 sweet apples, peeled, cored and finely sliced
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

The rest is really easy.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line w/parchement paper the bottom of an 8″ round springform pan.
Melt the butter and set aside to cool.

Whisk the sugar, vanilla and eggs together in a large bowl. Whisk in the cooled melted butter until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.  Sift in the flour and cinnamon and fold it together well. Finally, fold in the apples, raisins and walnuts.

Top row: batter and batter with apples. Bottom row: baked tourte and next day.

Top row: batter and batter with apples. Bottom row: baked tourte and next day.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. As you walk your pan over to the oven watch out for cats who insist on getting underfoot, thinking you are going to drop chicken or grated cheese on the floor.

Tourte batter in pan and Butchie waiting for manna from heaven.

Tourte batter in pan and Butchie waiting for manna from heaven.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until it is well risen and golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Set it aside to rest for 15 minutes before serving warm with whipped cream, or cold as a cake (see, they now are saying cake!) Serves 8. Can be stored, well wrapped up to 2 days.

Did it turn out like the picture? Well no, but it sure tasted pic

And baking on a cold day is a good thing, the temperature outside is up to -12. Who-hoo!!

I live in Wisconsin, I do not like Winter


Of course, I unfortunately live in Northeast Wisconsin where winter lasts for eleven months. Okay I exaggerate, eight months. Now don’t get me wrong I love the Midwest, its values, its people. I just wish it were further South.

Here are my winter whines along with the Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Syrah that get me through it all.

1. The available activities.  I don’t ski, snowshoe, skate, snowmobile, or sled. So my activity level goes way down in the winter and that means it’s really hard to not gain weight. It doesn’t help that my husband loves to cook and there is a lot of good food around. That just makes it harder to get back in shape when everything thaws out in May. Drive to a gym? See no. 3.

2. The cold.  The circulation in my toes and fingers doesn’t work very well so they are usually cold. I wear socks to bed every night. This is good for my husband because he doesn’t get those icebergs at the end of my ankles against his ….um, legs or whatever is in reach of my feet. But it takes me forever to warm up some nights and when I’m cold I can’t sleep. As to my fingers, well there isn’t one time in church when I shake hands and give the peace of the Lord to my neighbor in the pew that I’m not told, “Wow, your hands are cold!’ I think I will have to starting waving or just keep my mittens on.

Peace of the Lord.

Peace of the Lord.

3. Winter driving.  I am in dire fear of skidding off the road, sliding into another car or having another vehicle hit me (ever since we had an accident about 6 years ago). Thus, once it starts snowing I don’t venture forth until the roads are dry, really dry. If the roads are bad and I have an important appointment like with a doctor my sweetie will be an agreeable chauffeur. But I don’t like asking to be driven to my book group, church, the library, shopping ….well you get the idea. My fear and my pride keep me in the house a lot in the winter.

4. The bills. Number one is the heating bill. Every time that big old propane truck pulls into the driveway I’m looking at another $400-500 charge. Big cold snap expected next week, guess we’ll be getting to know that driver really well. Fill ‘er up, Bill!
But on top of that is the plowing bill. We have a walk behind snowplow but neither of us are getting any younger and even though Curt is not an invalid it was just getting tough to suit up and go out and push the snow around. Our driveway is medium length but is still a lot of work. We hired a plow guy. Takes him 5-8 minutes tops, where it took Curt 30-40 minutes, to do the whole driveway and the apron and parking area in front of the garage. Thirty bucks per plow and we’ve had him here 6 times this December. Could be worse though, the plow guy we had last year charged us $45 per plow and then waited to send me the whole winter’s bill in May!

5. The footing. As in the surface underneath my feet. Black ice did me in two winters ago. Never saw it until I was on the ground. That resulted in a sprained foot and a stress fracture. Been gun-shy ever since. I now walk slow on most driveways, sidewalks, parking lots…sort of like a slow duck. However walking in deep snow with big boots or snowshoes is no problem. Too bad I don’t like winter sports.

Beware Black Ice!

Black Ice

6. Finally, it gets dark early. My ambition level goes waaay down when the sun sets. No matter what I’m doing when it gets dark and it is cold out, I’m looking for my sweats and slippers. After dinner, it’s an afghan, a glass of wine (see the intro for preferred vintages) and a book, or what’s on the TV, that occupies my time. In the summer I’d be back outside. I think we have now come full circle to the weight gain issue again.

So there are my gripes about the long, cold, dark winter. For a more upbeat take on the season visit my friend Terra’s latest, 6 Great Winter Outings in Northeast Wisconsin. She’s a winter lover.