Thursday, January 29, 2015

From Lutefisk to Pierogies!

Last weekend we had friends, J & H, visit us from Bloomington (MN).  We've know them for almost 20 years and now they enjoy coming up here--J likes to trim brush and apple trees up in the meadow (really!) and H likes to read, relax and be on vacation.  Both choices work for us!

But this time H brought along the ingredients to create and share some food specialities from her Polish background.  Pierogies!  Pierogies are little half-circle shaped dumplings stuffed with various fillings--hers were filled with a cheese mixture.

She began by making the cheese mixture and chilling that overnight.  Next came the mixture for the dough for the dumplings.  It took a few tries to get the optimal circle size to fit her crimper without having extra dough squeeze out the sides.

Next came deciding how much filling goes onto the dough circle.  She makes these about once a year but usually they do multiple batches and there is a whole assembly line of people for each step.  After that many, they all become experts at their step in the assembly line.  However, this time she was doing it all and every step started as an experiment.

Squeeze the crimper and then try to get it to release with the pierogi intact!

The first few are completed.

Then out to the rocker on the front porch to chill until dinner time.  Temps outside were perfect for chilling!

When it's time to prepare them for dinner, H & J (J came in from the woods!) began by boiling them for about 10 minutes until they floated in the pot.  Then they put them in the frying pan to give them a nice brown finish.  Add in some fried onions, sour cream and some Polish sausage from Kramarczuk's in Minneapolis and we had a great meal!  Thanks J & H!

I wanted to add a picture of The Lake today.  It was a deep, deep blue color with some pretty good wave action going on.  The wind was coming in strong from the north so I wasn't out taking pictures for long!

And back on the slough backwaters, a few guys braved the possibly-thin ice with their ATVs and set up an ice fishing site.  I'd be curious to know how thick the ice is there, but I guess they were pretty close to the edge of shore.  I don't think I've ever seen people ice fishing like that there.  The other river close by where people often fish, Flagg River, has open water now.  

Another weekend begins tomorrow and another month begins on Sunday.  Time to get going on more of my winter projects!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

After the clean-up comes the burn

One of the satisfactions that comes with cleaning out junk is actually disposing of it--removing it from your life.  Today the conditions were right for a good burn--no wind, snow on the ground--so we took all of the papers we cleaned out yesterday and hauled them out to our on-going burn pile.
 It was all pretty uneventful until an small airplane flew over our house REAL LOW and, of course, my first thought was that it was because of our--very little--fire.  And besides, I had just this week signed up online with DNR for our yearly burning permit, and as I said, conditions were safe for burning.  But we watched the plane flying north then right away it veered to the right and flew over the lakeshore towards the location of the ice caves. We decided it might have been people from a news agency checking out the ice situation.  And just now on the 10pm news, they reported on the LACK of any good ice yet this year.  Oh, well...

This photo below, posted on Facebook just now, was taken by my neighbor, David McRoberts, showing the area by the ice caves but taken from a spot up above and looking down to the water from up high.  He must have hiked over there from Meyers Beach or some other good access point.  Lots of ice hanging down but no ice to walk on!

And just a few more pictures from today...  This is one of the oldest trees in the orchard by our house and it's still loaded with apples!  Hmmm...what can you do with frozen apples?

After the burning was over we drove over to Herbster for lunch.  There we saw this pretty impressive piece of equipment used to groom the snowmobile trails.  I just checked the Bayfield County snowmobile trail report, and the description there for trail conditions was only "fair."  Can't believe I'd say this, but we really need snow!

Herbster has a beautiful beach and campground right next to the water, but the wave action is coming a little too close to the shore and trying to wash away the road.  Everything is still drivable but it could be an interesting spring for this location and others.

This is the same Herbster beach looking east.  Imagine yourself on a warm July evening sitting by your tent and campfire, and listening to the waves washing up to the sand.  Yes, there's snow and ice piled up there now...that's why I said "imagine!"

And finally, on our trip home we looked up and saw this eagle in the tree looking out over the lake.  It looks like a lump, but, really, it's an eagle.
That's all for today!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bleak, but even bleak is okay.

Today could only be described as "bleak."  Dark and cloudy, and not even any big weather conditions leading to any big excitement--no snow to speak of and even the temperature at right around 32˚ was kind of boring.  The only conversation it inspired was comparisons with the FREEZING cold from last year.

Bleak, right?  And that's open water out there.

In fact, even the ice in the channel has broken up.  It's the kind of day when the ice s-l-o-w-l-y moves back and forth, kind of undulates underneath, it could make you a little queasy! 

So we checked the Flagg River (or Flag River--you can see it spelled both ways) and it also had open water.  This is just up our road but the river flows down to The Lake.

 More bleakness...

So, to add to the bleakness, I was organizing papers in preparation for doing income taxes, both for our business and my own.  That process always leads me to going through stored boxes of old "important" papers and documents, and attempting to get rid of old paperwork!  It's getting easier now that so many things are online, but I still have that "keep for 7 years" rule in my head.  So still too much stuff!

But then there are the boxes of sentimental things--cards, letters, old job-related document, fun stuff.  And there I found this little newspaper article that had been in my mother's "sentimental" things from years ago.  In her handwriting on the top, it says it's "taken from the Hayward paper written by the Postmaster's daughter."  There is no date referenced on it--all I know is that it was printed around Valentine's Day, I think from back in the early 1980's.  I don't know who the postmaster would have been back then, but I'm sure some people reading this might know.

But it sums up life in Port Wing pretty well, so I wanted to pass it along to Port Wing Passages readers.

Yes, Port Wing hasn't died yet for sure and those of us who stay here all winter share a special connection with each other as we keep the home fires burning for those who escape to the south until spring!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Christmas - All that's left is the memories!

Today was a picture-perfect winter day--blue sky, warm(ish) sun, temps up into the 30s.  It was a winter day like we never had last year until April!  I hear we need some snow though.  People are having trouble with their septic lines freezing up because the ground is so frozen so deep.  Always something!

 Here is the lake as it looks today.  On Sunday as we drove to Duluth, the lake was frozen solid out as far as we could see.  The windy conditions today have caused wave action that has broken up the ice out just beyond the pier.  Warm(er) temps, but cold winds.  It was a cold walk out on the pier!

And this is the channel looking to the southwest.  The angle of the sun on the refrozen ice made it sparkle like diamonds.

And here's a close-up of the ice.  And, no, people aren't allowed to try to get to the ice caves yet.  The camera shows ice in some of the protected bays near the caves, but warm days like this will slow down the big freeze needed to access them safely.

So, back to Christmas.  We undecorated the tree on Monday--always a bittersweet deal for me.  I'm sorry to put everything away but also kind of like the uncluttered, clean look that is left behind.  Besides, we need room for the jigsaw puzzle table!  Rather than try to move the very dry tree out the door to the deck, we used our giant Fiskars to cut off the branches while the tree was still in the house and in the stand.  Much neater!

But, as promised :-) here are some more of our decorations and their stories.

This manger scene has been in my family since way before I was born.  Little has changed with it as long as I can remember except for the ears, legs and tails of the animals have had to have repairs through the years, especially my younger years.

I always like to arrange the pieces of the fence around the whole scene.

The animals are so cute.  Can't blame a little kid for touching them, can you?

See the camel?  He's had the most repairs through the years, but he's still standing!

The peppermint candy in the middle came from a smocking class I took about 30 years ago in Redwood Falls with Jeanne K. back when I lived in the little parsonage on the prairie.   I think I branched out from little ornaments to smocking dresses for my little girls.  Fun!

 This little angel was given to me, and made, by my Sunday School teacher, Hazel Peterson, before I had was even started school.  

 This was a  Mom and Dad Christmas gift made back when I was in first grade.  It's a scene cut out from a Christmas card and glued onto a canning lid.  (My mother kept everything!)

This is a Leann creation of a piece of driftwood carved into a Santa Claus!

This was from my crocheting year, about 1982, I think.  It's crocheted, then I blew up a balloon inside of the crocheting, and then dipped it in a heavy solution of sugar water to make it stiff.   And it's still here all these years later.

And then there was my tatting year.  The hardest part of tatting is learning to "flip it" to get the tatting knot on the right thread.  I think I may have used starch to stiffen this one.  Not as sticky as sugar!

And, finally, my quilling year, actually I was quilling for a few years back then.  Quilling, if you're not familiar, is done by twirling thin strips of paper using a "quilling tool" to make designs large and small.  I couldn't create anything of my own but give me a pattern to follow, and I'm your girl!

So, here's to Christmas, 2014!  We were happy to share it with both daughters and their SOs for a few days.  We ventured into the making of lutefisk again with relative success, but how can one really measure lutefisk success.  I liked it and it brought back all the good memories, so I say it was good!  Thanks for sharing our Christmas with us!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Christmas - One more time

Part of what I never posted about in the last month was anything about Christmas.  I think I posted about getting the Christmas tree in from the meadow and then nothing.  And today, since the cold temps and high winds postponed our planned trip to Duluth, I spent part of today taking down and putting away SOME of the Christmas decorations.  The tree is still up, even though its needles fall to the floor just by looking at it!  Taking the tree down will be an Epiphany task on Sunday.

But, before things came down, I took a few pictures.  Actually, more than a few, so this will be a two-day post.

The picture below shows our entryway leading upstairs, but it was those nice red velvet bows that couldn't seem to stay attached to the banister that made it a little easier to give up and take it all down for another year.  Plus, I learned to label each of the ropes of fake greenery so it would be easier to know what goes where next year.  I already feel more organized!

This is the railing across our upstairs area with guest rooms on either side.  These red bows were also difficult to keep attached, but they got a reprieve for now and will be left up until Sunday.

Here is our tree in place and decorated.  I think it's about 10 or 11 feet tall, and we learned something this year that made the process of getting it into the house and set upright MUCH easier!  We measured it IN the stand while it was still OUTSIDE.  And we learned this because of what happened last year when we put it in the stand, wrestled it inside, realized it was too tall, wrestled it back outside while scratching a little hole in the patio door screen, sawed off a foot of tree, back in the stand and back in the house.  Things went MUCH more smoothly this year!

Here's the tree in the corner viewed from the balcony.  Yes, those are sunbeams streaming in the window.  Amazing to see but still cold outside!

And here are some odds and ends of decorations.  This is my little Swedish collection on the buffet upstairs by our guest rooms.  The two straw reindeer are Swedish Yulbock, sometimes called straw goats or straw horses.  I also have two more that are about a foot tall.  The little candle holders came from when I lived in Germany, and the dimensional Christmas tree candle holder has been in my life since childhood.  The cloth underneath it all has some typical Swedish designs on it along with the Dala horses in red.

 This is a three-generation scene!  The wooden sleigh came into my mother's life back in the '40s when she was first married.  The taller of the two trolls was a Christmas present I received back in the '60s when trolls were a big thing.  And the smaller troll caroler came into our household in the early '90s when trolls were enjoying a revival!

Remember when everyone was taking ceramics classes back in the '70s?  This ceramic Christmas tree was a gift from my college roommate, Pat, back in 1976.  I remember one Christmas when she spent any extra minutes hand-painting ceramic ornaments as gifts for off us in our dorm floor and all of her friends.  She would take her paints and bare ornaments up to the lounge away by herself, and like one of Santa's elves create her special gifts...and made it look so easy!

And finally, this might be one of my favorites.  These little ornaments are all about an inch tall and all so detailed and cute!  These came from a long-time Swedish gift & grocery store in Minneapolis called Ingebritsen's.  It's located on Lake Street in a neighborhood of Minneapolis that has seen several ethnic changes through the years and has been a constant presence there since 1921.  An area artist created these little ornaments and Leann would add more to my collection every year on my birthday.  That artist has died now, so I celebrate with these cuties every year.  I can't even say which is my favorite, but the cat sleeping in the bird feeder and the mittens would have to be right up there.

Guess that's all I'll bring to you today, but come back tomorrow for more!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Blogging to the sound of fierce winter winds!

Wow!  First post of the new year and where have I been these last seven days?  Here, nowhere but here, so what's my problem?  As usual, I have no excuses and no good reasons for NOT posting, so I will just begin the year as if it was January 1!

Actually I have many good reasons TO post!  While the sun hasn't been showing itself lately, we had this BEAUTIFUL sunrise back on New Years' Eve morning.  The East was on fire!  This is looking to the southeast which seems a strange direction for a sunrise.  It should be rising on the far LEFT side of this photo--and even more left...but I guess that would be summer and we wouldn't be hearing these fierce winter winds outside.

Our trip down to The Lake that same day (no more sun!) showed our two fishing boats sitting in their over-winter position in the middle of the backwaters.  I haven't checked with anyone official, but I think they park them like that so it's an easier straight shot out of the harbor when fishing can begin again in March...or April...or May.  Sign of the season, for sure.

Last Sunday we could feel the resurgence of winter when the winds started up and the temps started down.  This picture is a combination of some blowing snow and the cold making the little bit of open water steam.  If this was happening on a big scale, it's what would be bringing us our lake effect snow.  On the bottom of the picture you can see the ice in the channel and how it has been piling up and stacking up.  Up close it looks like sharp shards of glass.  It all looks promising for more ice caves this year, but we need to stay in this frigid condition for the next month...and do we really want to do that?

And this was a few of our deer friends at our feeder late this afternoon.  It's been below zero with wicked wind chills, so it's not surprising that they are stepping up where the eating is easy!

So, I have had many reasons to post, but my most important reason came yesterday when I was reading some of the blogs on my Feedly list.  I noticed my cousin, Ingabritt, (originally from Sweden but now living in Greece) had posted a new blog post.  I still have to use Google Translate to read her blog quickly--or to get more meaning out of it than my feeble Swedish skills give me--, and right away I saw her title translated to "My Hardest Posts."  And my heart sank.  As I read on, she said this would be her last post because of health reasons, that she was closing down her blog about her life in Greece that she had been keeping up for the last seven years.  I knew that she had been fighting cancer for the last several years, but I also knew that she had continued her blog throughout many times of treatments and medications.  So when she said she was closing it down for good, I knew something more had happened.  

Here's a translation of part of her blog, and remember, this is a "Google Translate" translation from her Swedish so it's not as smoothly written as if it were her original words:
You may have noticed that the blog has been a bit sporadic and uninspired the last time and it is due to poor health. And I put it down rather than have a half bad blog that is not updated. But oh, how it feels difficult. The blog has been my companion for more than seven years. The idea of it has been with me everywhere and almost everything I have experienced, I have done in the company of it.The blog and my camera has been my extended arm. And among the best of all, of course, having been in touch with you readers, both known and unknown! Your comments and questions and positive feedback. Some of you have been following me for years and some have also become my friends in real life. But now it will not be anymore. So even though it feels like that sad as it may cause goodbye to a good friend, so I must do it. THANKS for being with me on this journey!
I've called Ingabritt my blog "mentor" and in the short time I've kept this blog, I understand when she says it became a companion to her; strange as it may sound, this blog is always in my thoughts (even when I don't post), and, yes, it's always great to hear from readers!  But mostly I was so happy to reconnect with her as family.  It meant so much to me to find her--and her blog--on the Internet last February!  And look what that started for me!

So, posts that are hard to post are also very hard to read, and accept, Ingabritt.  Thanks so much for your influence in my life!

And as happens in life, we also had some very good news today!  Leann's sister, Kristi, was back at Mayo for a checkup today a month after her cancer surgery, and she received great news!  The cancer appears to be gone and she will start up a pre-emptive chemo dosage, but pills rather than infusions!  Yes!  I guess what all these ups and downs teach me is to live each day to its fullest possibility, and not let anyone, anything, or any excuses keep us from living our best life!