Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Studies

We have a local gem hidden within a regional jewel. Lake Wissota State Park is home to the Karen Lea Nature Center also known as the outdoor classroom. The classroom came about a couple of decades ago when fifth grade teacher Mrs. Lea was awarded a Christa McAuliffe grant to help build it.

Last week, the same week as the 25th observance of the date of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, we received a call from the park naturalist asking us if we might help with a fourth grade field trip to the classroom.

Original funding requests for the program included monies for enough snowshoes and skis to outfit entire fourth and fifth grade classes for winter lessons. Fortunately, due to some savvy ordering and keen foresight of the naturalist, equipment has been kept in good supply, in repair, and up-to-date.

The appropriately named Mrs. Wise is the closest we will ever get to having a real-life Ms.Frizzle in our midst. She has enough energy and positive attitude to power a small city and she tries to share that ability with the kids by encouraging them to power the lights of the classroom by pedaling while they eat their lunch.

Over the years she has been conducting a survey of what kind of containers kids bring their lunches in, and over time has caused the curve of throw-away packaging (especially the dreaded "Lunchables") that was going sharply up to take a nose dive as children and their parents got the message that reusable is best.

Younger children get to go to the classroom in the fall and spring to hike along the lake and through the woods or on the path that leads around the beaver pond. Mrs. Wise tells the kids what kind of bugs, birds, plants, and scat they might see along the path as they walk. She tells them that if they really keep their eyes open they might even see rare moose poop. She gives an extra vigorous shake of her head that sends her large, brown pendant earrings swinging as she says this.

This day the kids had plenty of opportunity for practicing techniques for getting back on their feet after a fall, which allowed plenty of time for those who managed to stay upright to pause on the trail to examine interesting details of nature. The wildlife must have gone into hiding at the first sounds of wild exuberance ringing through the forest as not a single living creature was observed other than the titmice tempted into dining at the classroom birdfeeder.

Later they got the hang of it and had a great time. For most of the kids this was their first experience on skis and snowshoes. It is often the first time for many of the parents who chaperone as well. It is hard to imagine how many thousands of children have had a chance to try new things and experience the outdoors in a positive healthy way due to the legacy of Christa McAuliffe, the initiative of Mrs. Lea and the seemingling endless enthusiasm of Mrs. Wise.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pretty Planners

If you didn't get a calendar for Christmas or buy one on clearance afterwards, or if you have an empty nail that needs something to hang on it, here are some free and fun ways to keep track of your days and beautify your walls. Print one month at a time or print them all. Here they are.

A 2011 planner from mibo.

At JeannieJeannie, a children's book calendar and a type calendar not shown here.

Produce calendar from cottage industrialist.

And a Dr. Seuss year from Lime Lane at kind over matter.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Black is the New White

A clever friend made this after using a similar makeup washcloth at a posh B and B out East.

Those of us who don't "do white" think this is a really good idea. We are not all natural born stain removal queens you know.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sweet Gift

We recently received a gift of Torsleff's vanilla sugar from a Swedish friend. She sought out this certain brand because she thought we would enjoy the package design. She was right of course. We believe the image of this swarthy man (it just occured to us that this may be a woman) indicates that the sugar was flavored with real Madagascan bourbon vanilla. This recipe from the Torsleff's website uses vanilla sugar and looks very yummy.

Here is another product from the same company. We have no idea how the image on the package relates to the contents, but we are open to theories.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crazy Nine-Patch

Continuing to try to use up a very large stash of previously purchased fabric we pulled out this combo bought when we were enamoured with a certain tote bag pattern and must have thought we were going to make a million of them. Well that didn't happen. Let's try this instead from Oh,Fransson.

We weren't sure, but were hoping the blog name was inspired by one of our very favorite movies, Sweetland.
Oops. Guess not. Here is a Q and A from the Oh,Fransson blog FAQ.

Who is this Fransson? Mrs. Fransson was a neighbor to the Nyman family in Astrid Lindgren's The Children on Troublemaker Street. At one point in the book, the five-year-old protagonist, Lotta, has taken to using Mrs. Fransson's name as an exclamation, as in "Oh, Fransson how I have to slave!". My sisters and I read the book a lot as children and have always repeated that line in reference to having a lot of work to do.

But anyway...if you haven't seen Sweetland, do. The character played by Alan Cumming is Frandsen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January or July?

Balmy or subzero?

This was the beautiful sky on the eve of the day last week that started at -24F and never rose above zero.

A friend asked, "Why is it always so cold on your birthday?".

"Suppose it's the same reason we're always dangling our feet in the lake and cursing the stifling humidity on yours and why we're both middle children. Somebody else was in charge at the time."

Friday, January 21, 2011


The original hamburger helper.

Fat Schmat. Too much talking and not enough cooking.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One-Year-Old 51 Years Ago

The menu? Canned peaches, fried cod - the kind that came as a frozen fish brick, squishy canned peas that didn't make it into the photo, party cups of candies, and a pretty cake polka-dotted with pastel mint patties and topped with one giant candle. Sixties family food.

This year's birthday meal? Salmon with roasted red pepper sauce, risotto, steamed and stir-fried green beans, apple and fennel salad, and a nice mellow malbec.

Grilled Salmon with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Adapted by Je Mange la Ville from Eating Well magazine

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted slightly in a dry pan over medium heat
1 roasted red bell pepper
1/4 cup halved grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, or roasted
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar
1 juice of ½ an orange (3 T.) or more if needed
1 tsp. paprika, preferably smoked
1 tsp. salt, divided
freshly ground pepper
3/4 – 1 lb wild-caught salmon fillet, cut into 2 portions
Canola or olive oil cooking spray

Process all sauce ingredients until almost smooth.

Grill salmon 3-5 minutes on each side.

Or bake in 425 oven for 15-20 minutes.

Shaved Fennel and Apple Salad with Orange Dressing and Ricotta Salata
from Food

1/3 cup olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 navel oranges, juiced
1/2 navel orange, zested
1 small lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Couple pinches salt
About 15 to 20 grinds black pepper

1 bulb fennel, shaved with a knife or mandoline (about 2 to 3 cups), fronds reserved and chopped
1 Granny Smith, or Honey Crisp, or other good salad apple, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices, then cut into matchsticks
1/4-pound ricotta salata, shaved (feta or parmesan are also good)

Combine dressing ingredients in a sealable container and shake to emulsify.
Combine shaved fennel, some of the fronds, and apple in a mixing bowl and toss. Toss the salad with the dressing. Distribute between serving plates. Top with shaved cheese and scatter a few more chopped fennel fronds over the top. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Veal for Victory

Pork propaganda. Remember: Loose lips sink hips.