Sunday, February 25, 2007

Blizzard Today

And they weren't lying when they said it would snow today. About 4:00 p.m. yesterday (after the rain, sleet and ice) if briefly poured rain before turning to all snow. It is still snowing as I write this. I think we've probably had close to 6 or 7 inches. I went out to feed the birds and took the opportunity to snap some pictures so you people (you know who you are!) who are warm and dry right now can gloat some more.

Our babies -Elvis is the black one and Dusty is the other. Elvis loves plowing through the drifts.

The ice and snow are really doing a number on my evergreen shrub. I need to go out and knock that stuff off so it won't break the branches. Luckily we pruned all of our big trees in the yard last year so we didn't have too many branches down. But all over town there are tree limbs laying on the parking where they'd been dragged off the streets. You can see the result of the ice on the bird feeder. And, speaking of birds...

Those are Dark Eyed Juncos feeding at the base of the tree. Right before I snapped this there were about 20 of them feeding. They're such a beautiful little bird. The bird on the right is a House Finch. He's started shedding his winter coat of feathers, clearly displaying his beautiful red breast in order to attract a mate. Unlike Don over at An Iowa Garden I've yet to see a Robin. Thank goodness. I particularly like the finch photo because you can clearly see the blowing snow.

Anyway, there you go. This is how my day looks here in my little corner of the world. Stay warm! Stay safe.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

They Weren't Kidding!

Welcome to Iowa

Beef and Sausage Stew

As you may (or may not) know, DH and I have entered the local Chili Cook-Off contest for the last couple of years. Unfortunately that event was held the same day as Jay's Daytona Party. And since free food (and beer) always win, we did not get to enter into the contest. Which is too bad because I had a kick-ass, sure as shootin' winner this year.

So, since we didn't get to enter, and since Alanna has called for an entry in her Soup's On! event, I decided to make the "chili" that I entered with last year to share with the world. (Lucky world!) It's not really chili in the strictest sense of the word. Come to think of it - not even in the loosest sense of the world. But since the contest rules didn't allow beans, I wanted to find a recipe that would not just be hamburger, tomatoes and hot peppers - or a variation of these.

One thing I discovered in my search for a recipe is that there are two different views of what "chili" is. It's either a soup or it's something you put over hot dogs. Since I'm of the soup persuasion, I needed to find something that was liquid, unusual and would knock your socks off. Oh - and win*.

Somewhere I found this recipe and it certainly was "different" to say the least. Before I committed myself to making this for the Chili Cook-Off, I looked up the definition of chili. All the dictionary had to say was that it was a type of pepper. Since this soup had pepper in it as well as hot sauce, I figured that was close enough and made up a batch to see how good it was before we entered it. I must say that it blew us away with it's taste!

Beef and Sausage Stew

1 lb. Chorizo (all Chorizos taste different - find the one you like)
1 lb. Beef Stew meat
1 14.5 oz can of beef broth
2 Tblsp. tomato paste
1 10 oz. pkg. white mushrooms quartered
2 celery stalks thinly sliced
4 cubes beef boullion
4 cups water
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. oregano
1 head cauliflower, halved, cored and cut into bit-sized pieces (about 4 cups) (yes - you read that right)
1 Tblsp. minced garlic
1 Tblsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce (about 4 shakes)

1. In a skillet over medium heat, brown sausage and stew meat until thoroughly cooked; drain off fat. (I use the fat from the Chorizo to brown the stew meat in. Why waste that flavor?)
2. In a slow cooker, whisk together the beef broth and tomato paste. Add all remaining ingredients as well as the cooked meat and stir together.
3. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours. Stir well before serving.

NOTE: Use as much boullion or beef broth as you need to make it the consistancy you like. I don't alter the flavorings even if I do use more. That Chorizo is spicy stuff!

*It didn't. It was a little too unusual for the judges. I for sure would have won this year though!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


And why won't Blogger let me put spaces between my paragraphs in the previous post?

Bear In Mind

Speaking of the Sesqui cookbook, each section is divided by a tabbed insert. On the one side is an old picture from someone or something in West Bend's history. On the other side are Household Hints, Bread Making Tips, Cookie Hints or some such thing as that. The following really caught my eye:

Bear In Mind

"That West Bend has a good creamery; two lumber yards carrying a complete line of lumber and all kinds of building materials; a wholesale butter, egg and poultry company; two elevators; live stock buyers and feeders who always pay the highest market prices; four general stores who carry large stocks of dry goods, clothing, ladies' ready-to-wear and groceries; two blacksmith shops where good work and prompt service are always to be had; one wagon shop; four auto dealers who handle the standard makes of cars; one bakery; one jewelry store; one harness shop; one exclusive clothing store; one exclusive grocery; one meat market; two restaurants; one hotel; two hardware stores where all kinds of shelf and heavy hardware are handled; two implement dealers; two shoe repair shops; two banks whose combined deposits are $998,202.59; one music dealer; one drug store; one newspaper; one plumbing and electrical supply company; several land firms; opera house; one barber shop; two pool halls, and one exclusive shoe store. Your wants can be supplied in a satisfactory manner by the above firms who solicit a share of your valued business.

West Bend has five churches, namely: Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Apostle Christian and Catholic. We also have a large consolidated school, also a parochial school. We have two lodge halls and seven secret lodges: Masonic, Odd Fellows, Woodman, Yeoman, Eastern Stars, Rebeccas and Royal Neighbors, and a well-established American Legion Post.

Our professional list consists of a doctor, dentist, two veterinaries and an attorney."

(From the West Bend Booster - September 20, 1920)
Wow. Just, wow. When we moved here in 1989 we were impressed by the number and diversity of businesses that were here. West Bend is a small town with a population of only 900 people, yet it had a Ford dealership, a lumber yard, a grocery store, a meat market, a clothing store, a shoe store, a furniture store, two implement dealers, an office supply/liquor store, three restaurants, two bars, a florist, a drug store, two vets, two banks, a golf course, two schools (public and parochial), three or four beauty shops, one barber, one blacksmith shop, a motel, four churches, two doctors (with a full medical clinic), a realtor, a funeral parlor, a nursing home, one elevator and a part-time attorney. (DH was recruited to make that one FULL time attorney.) Even Onawa, which is the county seat for Monona County, was hard pressed to top that.
Slowly, over the course of the years, the face of the town has changed. The clothing and shoe store closed. The furniture store decided to quit selling furniture and concentrate on it's flooring business. The druggist died and the store was sold to a pharmacy in Emmetsburg. You can still get your prescriptions filled - it just takes a day to get them (delivered to your door). There is only one doctor in the clinic now (but one really good PA). Restaurants have come and gone, and come again.
And we just learned that the Catholic church will close the school after this year. They only have 23 students in it (only one kindergartner) and don't want to spend the money to keep it running. As with every small town, schools are the center pin holding the whole thing together. Our public school has consolidated and is now sharing classes and sports with surrounding small schools, but we know its a matter of time before we will have to close our doors and bus the kids to Emmetsburg or Algona. I've seen too many towns simply dry up when their schools close, so any school closing is a cause for concern.
On the "plus" side, the West Bend Elevator is still the biggest employer around having bought several elevators in surrounding towns. The town decided it needed a newer and better motel, so it raised the money and built one. The lumber yard is thriving and has ventured into building spec houses, all of which have sold. Butter Braid built a new, modern manufacturing building and is another big employer. They also bought the old Roupe Furniture building and totally renovated it to make it into three new, beautiful shops (a home decor/furniture store, a clothing store and a coffee shop). The nursing home has added assisted living apartments (that are full). Skoglund Meats built a brand-new processing facility. And this past year the city put in new sewer/drainage to expand the Industrial Park.
On the whole we've never regretted our decision to move to West Bend. I guess there's something to be said for that.

Edith's Maidrites

While perusing the West Bend Sesquicentennial Cookbook in order to find inspiration for Alanna's one-off event Soup's On, I came across the following recipe. As you know (if you followed the link) West Bend's Sesquicentennial was this past year and I worked on the cookbook committee. After categorizing, alphabetizing and proofing all these recipes, I didn't want to even look at the book again. But I found the following recipe under Soups, Sandwiches, Salads and Dressings and was so taken by what the submitter wrote, that I knew I just had to try it.

Karen Nellis Smith wrote: "This recipe originally came from Edith Crofts. Born in 1899 (I don't remember her maiden name, but her father was the train depot agent in West Bend), she married Dewey Crofts and as a young bride lived at the south end of the main street. My grandmother (Bertha Reinhart Johnston) lived across the street and she was a great family friend from the time my mother was born in 1915, through my mother's marred life (Yvonne Johnston Nellis) and until the time she passed away at the age of 103! We grew up with these 'maidrites'. I've served them to my family, and now my oldest daughter is serving them to my grandchildren."

Now THAT is history! Making these simple sandwiches, I felt a real connection to all of the women who have made these over the years to feed their hungry families. I hope you will give them a try, too.

Edith's Maidrites

2 lb. ground beef
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1/2 c. ketchup
1 T. brown sugar

Cook beef until all red is gone in skillet. Add other ingredients; simmer.

Monday, February 19, 2007


I see you! Growing among the other herbs. When I brought my herbs in this fall I also potted up a clump of chives to use this winter. But, alas! They didn't survive. Or so I thought! I almost chocked on my coffee this morning as I was staring out the window when I saw this ->

I knew chives were hard to kill, but this really surprised me. I guess it just wanted to "rest" for four or five months before presenting me with this baby. Isn't it cute?

In another couple of months the parent plant will be sending up new shoots. But this baby is going to stay right on my window sill. The parsley, basil, sage and rosemary will be planted back in the garden to grow and prosper. But I think I'll keep this plant in its pot. By next winter it will have filled the pot and I'll have fresh chives all winter long.

On another note.... today it got up to 38 degrees F.!!! It's hard to believe that one week ago it was -9 degrees with a wind chill of -28! Ah, Iowa - gotta love it! I guess the groundhog got it right this year. Spring is in the air!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Daytona 500 - Party 3

Here are pics from this year's Daytona 500. The food was great!!

I can't believe this is the only picture I got of Jay (whose party is was!)

Bettina and Natalie

DH going for some more marinated shrimp

Phil relaxing

Max in his favorite chair!

Joel straight from the Chili Cookoff.

Phil looking over

That's it for this year. It was fun again... watch for next year.


Finally! My bathroom from hell is finally finished! What started out as a fix for a leaky faucet and a facelift for my tub before Thanksgiving is now over. Not to mention, what should have been an $800.00 repair quickly turned into a $2,000+ remodel. Although I love the textured wall covering, if you even look at it crooked the surface scratches leaving the white paper it's made from showing through your paint. And with this deep purple paint, that really sucks. I now have to go around and touch up the paint where it was skinned while putting up the shelf and mirror. (Note to self: If you ever use this stuff again, put it someplace where no one or nothing can even touch it!)

Anyway - here are a couple of pictures of my "brand new" bathroom. I should hold an open house for this sucker....

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


It's here! My postcard finally arrived! All the way from India, too. I was really beginning to worry since I haven't had the best of luck with the postal service lately. (Right Ivonne?) But it came yesterday and I was so excited to see what Ekta sent me.

It is this wonderful hand-made card. I was, however, heartbroken when it arrived damaged. As you can see, the beautiful painting on the front of the card is all but completely worn off. The hand-made paper is a delight - even the envelope is made this way. And Ekta wrote me such a lovely Valentine's note as well. I was so thrilled.

Thank you, Ekta, for your wonderful card and thoughtful note. And thank YOU Meeta, for hosting another exciting Blogger Postcards Around The World event!

Friday, February 09, 2007

White and Nerdy

I'm totally in love with this crazy video from Wierd Al Yankovic. Enjoy!