beekeeping, entertainment, Family story, food, Gluten-free, lifestyle

Birthdays, beehive building, and food porn: Just another week in Flyover Country

Things that got away from me last week – including blog posting – got a bit recaptured over the weekend, which consisted of phone call time with all my daughters and an afternoon hanging out with Mom. It also consisted of me not being my best self when I got home from Mom’s expecting to start building beehives and Sweetheart informed me that we didn’t have any of the right nails to put the boxes together.

I will skip over the part where I expressed my feelings about this discovery.

Enter Sweetheart Senior, my father-in-law.

SS and his wife invited us all to lunch today, to celebrate a couple of birthdays – our nephew B, who turned 9, and Sweetheart’s mother, P. Senior and P haven’t been married since Sweetheart and his siblings were kids. But Christmas and birthdays are communal affairs, with all the drama one would expect at an event where lovely people congregate. Or, to put it another way, none.

Birthday cakes

My nine-year-old nephew, his sister and my mother-in-law prepare for a candle blowout.

Sweetheart called his dad last night to ask if he had the right kind of nails and whether we could build the hives at their place before or after the party. He did, so this morning, while Sweetheart gathered up hive parts, I walked over to their house with the birdbath we’d gotten for P, and a bag with pignoli, caramelized beets with chèvre and serving pieces for both of them.

Pignoli

Pignoli – this recipe is from an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook and only has four ingredients. They were delicious!

After the party, I figured SS would set us up and Sweetheart and I would put the box and frames together. But then, Sweetheart and Senior got into it and were having a great time. So I did a little bit, but mostly hung out and took photos.

Beehive building

Nothing says “father and son bonding” like beehive building.

And speaking of photos, this past Thursday, the Large Midwestern Technical College where I work held its annual Five Star Event. The Five Star is the biggest scholarship fundraiser for the culinary, hospitality and baking programs.

People start lining up an hour before the 5:30 start time. The $45 ($55 at the door) gets you all the amazing food you can eat – in multiple areas at multiple stations – and a chance to buy raffle tickets, bid on silent auction items and participate in a “wine pull” – I don’t remember if it was three chances for $10 or something different, but you get the idea. Once you’ve bought in, you pick a cork from a barrel of them, and if there’s a number on the bottom, you get the bottle of wine to which the number corresponds.

Silent auction

Silent auction and wine pull zone. There were some great things to bid on, but we are really trying to keep acquisitions to a minimum.

Hard at work

Students in the Asian station, working to keep the tables stocked with tasty offerings.

ChefKyle_ResizedOptimized

Chef Kyle organized and supervised the Stuzzichini station – an Italian antipasto extravaganza featuring pesto potatoes, anchovies not from a can, roasted artichokes and the sweetest caramelized onions in the history of caramelized onions.

A food station at an event

A view of the Stuzzichini station, and happy attendees, filling their plates.

Mostly, it’s a great night for people watching and a great night to watch our students and their instructors strut their culinary stuff. There was a room filled with cakes that were too pretty to eat. They were baked and decorated by baking and pastry arts students, and auctioned off. I’m going to give their pictures the last word.

ballerina cake

An en pointe cake with a tutu of pink roses….


The work that went into this cake was probably way more work than a day at the beach!

The work that went into this cake was probably way more work than a day at the beach!

wedding cake

I seriously contemplated getting married again, just so I could have a cake like this at my wedding.

skull cake

The only things that could make this cake better would be if it were chocolate and gluten-free.

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books, Boswell Books, Central Wisconisn, Family history, Family story, lifestyle, opinion

Just me, at a writer’s retreat weekend, or “Three seismic paragraphs and a sandhill crane”

Last summer, I gave myself a gift. My friend Judy was offering a four-week writing workshop. I went on-line and registered. She’s one of the Writer’s lunch writers, owner of Redbird Writing Studio and the author of “Shut Up & Write.”

It was everything I hoped for and then some. You can draw a straight line between those four weeks and this blog – my way of establishing a regular writing routine that isn’t dependent on anyone else’s editorial agenda or timeline.

Then, in January, Judy sent me an e-mail. Here’s a condensed version:

“A small group of my students are getting together for a weekend in Waupaca, April 18-20. There will be 7 or 8 of us. All have made friends with one or more of the others in class. The point isn’t writing prowess or number of publications, it’s that they want to write and are good company.

Think you’d like to join us? You get to hang out with the group when you want to, or hide in your room to write when you want to. We’ll probably have one feedback session. No classes.

Let me know if you like the idea.”

Let’s see….a chance to spend a weekend at a bed & breakfast where all I have to do is write and hang out – or not hang out – with like-minded people?

I’d never done a writing retreat before, but it’s something that anyone with any sort of creative aspirations dreams about, I think. The chance to shed nagging day-to-day responsibilities and find out whether the void that creates opens you up to producing work you’ve sworn you would, if only you had the time and space, is true. If it turns out to be just a lie you’ve been feeding yourself for decades, it’s probably best to find out in a low-stakes setting. Judy’s invitation seemed like the perfect chance for a test run.

So, despite almost forgetting that this was the weekend – and remembering in the nick of time, on Thursday night as Sweetheart and I were walking Tuki and Judy’s name came up – I left work early on Friday,  packed the car, took the dog for a short walk, hit up the Public Market for some food, dropped by the nursing home to hug Mom, then headed up to the Crystal River Inn, the Bed & Breakfast where seven of the eight writers were gathered. (Barbara lives in Waupaca already, so she didn’t need a place to stay.)

Friday night we went in to town, where Judy was formally introduced, along with several other writers. She’d presented a workshop as part of the Waupaca Book Festival, and we hung about at the coffee shop and bookstore for awhile. I am proud to report that I only bought one book for myself. (I got two others, both holiday gifts.)

Saturday and Sunday both started with a walk and breakfast. On Saturday I went to the cemetery. Then, later, I went back with my camera to take a few pictures of some interesting tombstones.

Bette's tombstone. I think she's still around, because of the space below the date. So, Bette - if you read this, I like you and would love to buy you a coffee sometime.

Bette’s tombstone. I think she’s still around, because of the space below the date. So, Bette – if you read this, I like you and would love to buy you a coffee sometime.

I would love to have known more about Dr. Biberman, who clearly went to medical school at a time when she probably didn't have very many female classmates.

I would love to have known more about Dr. Biberman, who clearly went to medical school at a time when she probably didn’t have very many female classmates.

I've never seen a tombstone like this before, I really like it.

I’ve never seen a tombstone like this before, I really like it.

This morning, I saw a Sandhill crane. It was strolling in the grass along Highway 22, elegant as you please, occasionally bending down for something to eat. I watched from a respectful distance until it safely crossed the highway and headed into a back yard, then continued on my way. (I’d opted to leave the camera behind and just take mental pictures, so no photo.)

A couple of the other authors were staying at the B&B, and yesterday, I decided that one of them – Mike Mullin – needs to come and read at Boswell Books, and do presententations at my friend Marqurite’s high school and at Large Midwestern Technical College. Also, he needs to go to my friend Mollie’s library. She’s a children’s and YA librarian who doesn’t live far from him, so I’ll be doing my Yenta the Matchmaker thing sometime this week.

After Saturday breakfast, our writing pack arranged a time and parameters for a roundtable session (three pages at 3:30). Then Judy and most of the other writers went in to town, with plans for a short hike around a nearby lake between town and roundtable. I stayed back to write.

I decided to tear apart something that had started as a blog post and ended up as something else. I’d gotten feedback on its problems from two people I trust. This seemed a good opportunity to take a stab at addressing some of them.

Several hours and three paragraphs later, I realized a couple of things:

  1. I was really hungry.
  2. No one was back from town.
  3. There were tasty leftovers in my room thanks to my Public Market run.

So, I had myself a picnic on the front steps of the B&B. Then, I took another walk, snapped a few pictures of the wedding party that had shown up to take some post-ceremony pictures and went up to my room to play guitar for a bit.

Wedding

When the others came back, four of us headed off to Hartman Creek State Park, where we hiked around the lake and I got to indulge my inner 11-year-old. After our round-table session, we went Culver’s for dinner, then home to bed.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit blooming in Hartman Creek State Park

Jack-in-the-Pulpit blooming in Hartman Creek State Park

My inner 11-year-old had a great time at the Hartman State Park playground. (Thanks, Rooney!)

My inner 11-year-old had a great time at the Hartman State Park playground. (Thanks, Rooney!)

This morning, I shared, via e-mail, the group picture we’d drafted a Culver’s staffer to shoot, along with a helping of gratitude.

Judy and the curated writers

Judy and the curated writers (a great band name, if anyone is in the market….)

I’ll end with a condensed version of the e-mail that accompanied our photo.

“Dear Everyone:

Thank you all – and especially Judy – for an incredible weekend. Even though I probably only wrote three original paragraphs, they were seismic in terms of what I’m striving to achieve with my word-pile.

I’ve grown pretty accustomed over the years I’ve been mulling the story I wanted to tell and have achieved a comfort level with many of the details of my father’s story and its fallout.

Realizing how important Debbie is as a character in this story is a recent and unsettling development, in no small part because she is (was) a public figure. I feel like the owner of a very small house and now I have to build on an extra room for the elephant. (Sigh.)”

Anyway, extreme gratitude to all of you and I look forward to Judy getting us all together again.”

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Uncategorized

Social media’s upside and an open call for handy tips on ditching excess emotional baggage

I know it’s kind of cool to hate Facebook, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. It has let me stay connected to people I love who live too far away for me to see them as much as I’d like to. It’s given me a way to stay connected to people I like but am just too damned busy to see as much as I’d like to. It’s also given me a chance to develop relationships with people I’ve met in person once and would likely have never gotten a chance to get to know any better.

One is a young woman I met last summer when Sweetheart and I took our magical motorcycle tour through parts of Flyover Country. We also rode through parts of the country so remote that planes don’t even bother flying over it.

She was the server at our second breakfast at the diner where she works. (Our first was on the way out, and the food and service were so good we hit it up on the way back.) She was sparkly, a young mom with a cool tattoo.

Since becoming FB pals, I’ve discovered that she and her grade-school-age son adore each other and both her son and their dog (a black Lab) are happy and well-cared-for. Everything she posts has backed up my initial impression of her as someone I’d want to have as a friend.

One of my early morning activities is a cruise of my feed, where I scan and sometimes hit “like” or make the occasional comment as I move along. Two days ago, she posted this:

“Ugh! I don’t want to have this hate in my life any more! I dream about it. It’s constantly in my mind. I don’t want to think about it. I want it out of my head.”

A blueberry muffin in the shape of a skull

This is a copyright free image of what I think unwanted hate looks like. In this particular case, however, I can confirm that this unwanted hate tasted delicious.

Before I knew it, I was throwing words into the comment box.

“Dream about putting it in a box, sealing up the box, addressing it to wherever you want it sent with a Sharpie, taking it to the post office and mailing it off. (Use a fake return address so it doesn’t come back.) Also, if it’s a smaller amount, just use the appropriately sized envelope or soft package.”

She got other good suggestions, too. All were graciously received. But mine got me thinking about creative ways to get rid of hate, rage and other types of unwanted excess emotion.

Here are a couple of other ideas:

  1. Send an imaginary process server to serve it with an eviction notice.
  2. Stick it in a trick-or-treater’s plastic pumpkin. (That would clearly fall into the “trick” category.)
  3. Burn it in the fireplace.

But I don’t want to be only kid in the room with my hand up. So, consider this an invitation to weigh in with your suggestions and recommendations for offloading unwanted emotional baggage. 3-2-1…..GO!

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beekeeping, bees, Book review, book reviews, books, lifestyle

For a minute, they were the world’s tiniest motorcycle gang: Now, our new backyard crew is in the hive

It’s official. As of last night, I am a beekeeper.

A woman and a package of bees.

Me and my 8,000 new backyard buddies.

It feels very strange to write those words. My mental image of a beekeeper used to be some sort of slightly feral sage, an interesting sort of semi-holy person standing quietly in the midst of a raging storm of flying, buzzing, stinging creatures.

In other words, someone who is not me. Feral is a good description of me as a housekeeper, or a writer. But the closest I get to sage is Thanksgiving dinner, when I’m making the stuffing.

But that’s irrelevant now.

When I got home from work yesterday, Sweetheart had the bike out and ready. I was just walking toward him when Tammy, Dan and her son Larry showed up. I met Tammy at Large Midwestern Technical College not long ago, and we quickly discovered that Larry goes to the school down the block from me and one of his teachers is a friend. So, we invited them to hang out with us for a bit while I carried the newly-painted hive box, bottom board and top out to the back yard and placed them on the stand.

I replaced two of the wax-only frames with honey frames, so my bees would have something to eat until there is enough flowering plant life to sustain them. Kind of like a bee SNAP program (that would be food assistance, for all you non-US readers) that works the way it’s intended to work – a handup, not a handout. If all goes well, they’ll be making their food soon enough.

Tammy told me a beekeeper is coming to one of her classes to present soon, and I kind of want to hear that presentation. (Note to self: Find out when.) I also showed her some pictures from a terrific book I’m reading. It’s called “Plan Bee: Everything you ever wanted to know about the hardest-working creatures on the planet” by Susan Brackney.

I love this woman’s outlook on bees and beekeeping. Also her nose for research and her companionable writing style.

Here’s an example, from a passage she wrote about having to buy a new queen for a hive that had not (as is customary when a queen dies) replaced their queen:

“They seemed so lost. At least, they sounded that way. Rather than offering the unified, major-chord buzz I was used to hearing, individual bees were humming quietly to themselves, out of phase, the result of a weird discombobulation. Without their queen, the workers didn’t know quite what to do with themselves, and obviously, they wouldn’t survive without new bees being made. To fix the problem, I rush ordered a new mated, Italian queen from a honeybee supplier in the South. Just days later, she arrived, caged along with several of her attendants, in a large, puffy envelope.”

Brackney goes on to describe the hazards of introducing a new queen into an existing hive, and does what Sweetheart and I did last night with our queen (who I have named Latifah, in case you were wondering).

The queen cage is a small wood block, about 1.5 inches long and hollowed out in the middle. There’s a layer of mesh stapled around the hollowed out side with a hole on one end. The hole is plugged up with a small bit of cork. After making sure you’ve got your finger close to the cork, you pry it off with a small knife and plug the hole with your hand so she doesn’t fly away. Then, you jam a miniature marshmallow into the hole. Take your marshmallow-cage queen, and turn the block so the mesh side is facing down into the hive. Place the block between two honey frames. The time it takes for the queen to eat through the marshmallow on one side, with bees on the other side helping her, gives everyone a chance to get used to each other.

The queen drops down into the hive, starts laying eggs, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Anyway, Brackney decided to throw caution to the winds and skip the slow introduction process.

“I carefully pried out the cork and summarily dumped the queen and her attendants onto the frames in the top of the hive.What happened next astonished me, but I guess it shouldn’t have. I’d read that queens sometimes ‘toot’ or ‘pipe’ loudly to their subjects, but I never expected to have a chance to hear it firsthand. It was a startlingly loud and clear ‘Whooooo-Whoooo-Who-Who-Who-Who!’ As she piped, the queen pressed her midsection against the wooden tops of the honeycomb frame, serving to amplify her high-pitched, staccato calls. It sounded a bit like a kazoo being played by a teakettle.”

Any writer who can come up with a phrase like “a kazoo being played like a teakettle” is my kind of writer. She’s actually anyone’s kind of writer if you’re interested in bees and like your facts wrapped up in engaging prose.

Enlisting Susan Brackney as a beekeeping resource was as easy as plucking her book off a sale rack. But my real beekeeping knight in shining armor (okay, so his shining armor is a flannel shirt, but who’s counting?) is Andy Hemken.

Andy taught the Beginning Beekeeping workshop I took on Valentine’s Day. When I saw him at the beekeeping meeting, he looked over the Mann Lake order my friend Jeff helped me put together. There were a couple of things he said not to bother with because he had them and I could come out and pick them up.

Then, when the Mann Lake order wasn’t here but the bees were going to be, Andy told me not to worry. We drove out to his place over the weekend with every bee thing we had, and he looked it all over. He suggested we paint the box, and gave me a new bottom board and a top (Jeff was using a slab of something that wasn’t a beehive top). When we asked how much we owed him, he said $10. It seemed like way too little, especially given how reassuring it was to have someone treat as pretty much routine that we’d be fine making a go at this beekeeping thing.

Then, yesterday, we picked up our bees. Andy had said anyone who wanted to could put some of the package bees into one of his hives (“I have 500 packages to install. Every one someone else does is one I have to put in.”). It was one of those rare “something in it for everybody” situations – Andy wins because he has a few less packages to install, and we baby beekeepers really win because we get to practice installing bees into a hive under the guidance and tutelage of an expert.

Bee packages

Some of Andy Hemken’s 500 bee packages, and more for people like me, who only have one or five or 15 hives. (One is plenty for me!)

I had my vintage bee veil and a pair of spa gloves. Andy’s wife Cheryl handed Sweetheart a bee veil, and the three of us headed out to the bee yard with a five packages. I was pretty nervous trying to remember the proper sequence for what I was supposed to do when, but by the third package, I pretty much had it down. Here’s a 12-step program for Bee Package Installations:

  1. Take top off hive, put it on the side of the hive.
  2. Take out three middle frames, put them in front of the hive.
  3. Using hive tool, pry can up from inside bee package. Quickly cover hole from can with square of wood so bees do not fly out.
  4. Take hold of small metal piece protruding from top of bee package. Lift piece and slide it toward the covered hole. Uncover hole with hand not holding metal piece, shake it as you remove the tiny wooden block to which it is attached, because it will be crawling with bees who need to stay in the can.
  5. Turn wooden block over and peer in at the queen. Make sure she’s alive. She’ll be pacing back and forth in her mesh-covered cage.
  6. Pick up a mini marshmallow and a small knife.
  7. When the queen is pacing away from the tiny wooden stopper at one end, use the knife to remove the stopper. Quickly plug the hole with your finger. Put down the knife and plug the hole with the marshmallow.
  8. Now, if you don’t have stray bees clinging to the queen cage, you can put her in your pocket to keep her warm. I had stray bees every time. So I just put her nearby where she was safe.
  9. Pick up the can, quickly remove the wooden top and turn it upside down. Tip the box from side to side, tapping on the side that’s angled down so that the bees fall into the hive. When most of them are out, set it down.
  10. Gently replace the frames, making sure you’re not crushing your new colleagues.
  11. Now, using a hive tool (if you have one, which we did not), make a space between two of the newly-replaced frames. Place the queen cage there, mesh side down. Hook the metal perpendicular to the cage, so it doesn’t fall in.
  12. Close up the hive, and make sure the opening in the box with the remaining bees is facing the hive so the stragglers can find their way to their new home.

We came in from the bee yard. I picked out a package from the hundreds there – the sound of all that buzzing was something to hear. Sweetheart wrapped the package up in my jacket and put it in the top case of the motorcycle. We got home as the sun was setting.

Bees and motorcycle

Sweetheart gets the bees ready for the final leg of their journey from California.

We had just enough light to install our package. I had my bee veil on, but couldn’t shake the feeling that I had a bee down the back of my pants. (I didn’t.)

The near-final moments of our installation. The queen cage, with our queen (Latifah) inside is the small bar on the left.

The near-final moments of our installation. The queen cage, with our queen (Latifah) inside, is the small bar on the left.

It turned out when we got inside, though, that Sweetheart had picked up a hitchhiker. He was standing in front of the open refrigerator when it happened. He slammed the door shut and shook like a dog that had just been sprung from a bathtub.

We couldn’t find the bee. Then, a few minutes later, Sweetheart opened the fridge again. She was sitting there, shivering. He picked her up and took her outside so she could find her way to her 8,000 sisters, a few brothers and Latifah, her queen.

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Family history, Family story, lifestyle, love

Boot tracks across her winter coat and my severed finger: An Application for Entry to the Sister Fight Hall of Fame

When it came to fighting styles, my sister and I were not well-matched.

When we were very young, (I remember the baby gate in front of her bedroom door and other places in the house) and she upset me, I’d complain to my mother about whatever it was Debby was doing.

“Tell her not to,” Mom would advise.

So I would march my wee self over to wherever she was.

“NOT TO!” I’d shout.

It never worked.

As we got older, it became clear that Debby had inherited my mother’s short fuse and sharp tongue. I was older, but slower-witted. And like Dad, it took me a long time to get really angry, but when I did, I put on a show.

So most of our fights went this way: She’d get mad and start yelling. I’d try yelling back, but she was faster with the barbed words and better at shouting over me. It was easier to give up and stalk off to my room to sulk. And read.

My sister and me, between one of our many fights. Photo credit goes to our uncle, a professional photographer. I don't remember if this was a scheduled photo session or one of those "Stand over there!" shoots.

My sister and me, between one of our many fights. Photo credit goes to our uncle, a professional photographer. I don’t remember if this was a scheduled photo session or one of those “Stand over there and smile, Goddammit!!!” shoots.

There are two notable exceptions to this pattern. One has become the stuff of family legend, mostly because it ended with a severed finger. Sweetheart and I were having dinner at a local ethnic restaurant with one of my then college-age daughters when I casually mentioned the other.

Alex was as shocked as I’ve ever seen her.

She went completely quiet, staring at this stranger who looked like her mother, but no longer sounded like her.

“You what?”

“I knocked her down and walked on her,” I said.

“You knocked her down and walked on her,” Alex repeated. She repeated it a couple more times, turning the words over in her mouth as she attempted to assimilate this information into her previously-formed mother matrix. Sweetheart and I, sitting across from her at the restaurant table, watched and waited.

Her next move was to ask a question.

“What did she do?”

“I don’t remember,” I said. “What I can tell you is that she was making me really mad and I warned her that if she didn’t stop I was going to knock her down and walk on her. She wouldn’t stop, so I did.”

It was many winters on, but even from that cozy restaurant booth I could still conjure up the salient parts of the event.

We were walking home from school. The argument had commenced several blocks back, and now we were five houses away from home, at the steep part of our hilly street. It was midwinter, cold. Snow was mounded on either side of the shoveled sidewalk.

She wouldn’t stop, and I pushed her. I remember her shocked look as she went down, remember the ambiguity I felt about doing it even as I was making the choice to follow through on the threat I’d made. Even if I didn’t fully want to, even though I didn’t fully want to. I had to. Because I had said I would and if I didn’t, she’d just do whatever it was that had made me mad again and I couldn’t take that. So I walked across her, but just once. Then I kept going. She trailed behind me, crying, howling, screaming.

I walked ahead, silent. I knew I was going to be in big trouble when we got home.

I was right. The evidence was all over Debby’s back – the prints were an exact match with my boots. Mom & Dad mopped her up and comforted her while I waited for my punishment, which I don’t remember. I was sorrier about having to do it than I was about having done it, though. Or, to put it another way, my belief that she’d brought it on herself left me feeling okay about whatever punishment I got.

Across the table from me, my daughter was still scouring my face and the inside of her brain for her own answers, which were clearly not forthcoming.

We sat, silently. Sweetheart and I, waiting. At last, Alex spoke.

“I have to reassess everything I ever knew about you,” she said.

“It’s nice to know I can still surprise you after all these years,” I told her.

Then, we moved on to other topics.

One we did not discuss that night was the great finger-severing of 1965. My children have never not known that one, and as a very wee child, my niece was fascinated by the story.

I’ll share in a future post.

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lifestyle

Spring in Flyover Country: New Beekeeper Jitters and the Sound of a Few Thousand Hungry Worms,

Seder is in the rear-view mirror. The fancy dishes are safely stowed in the china cabinet, the Seder plate, Haggadot and box o’ plagues are back on the highest reaches of the pantry shelving and our fridge is well-stocked with leftover roast beast, eggplant Parmesan and other goodies.

Which means it’s time to talk about last Thursday. I was taking Tuki for her nightly “pre-bedtime outdoor visit” when I heard a sound I thought was rain. It was identical to the gentle patter of water on fallen leaves (we don’t rake everything up in autumn in order to protect and feed the spring growth), but I didn’t feel any drops.

Still, the soft crunching of dried leaves being jostled by something was all around me. I knelt down and peered at a patch of lawn next the sidewalk.

I saw a flash of movement as a leaf rustled, then another and another. My eyes got used to the dark, at about the same time my brain realized what was going on. It was one of the first mild nights of the season, and the yard was literally crawling – with earthworms. They were coming out of hibernation for their first meal of the season. I ran for the house.

“SWEETHEART!!!”

“What’s going on?” Like me, he was already wearing his pajamas.

“Come out!”

He came out.

“Listen!” I said, pointing at the leaves. He knelt down, quiet and still, and watched.

“There are no native earthworms anymore,” he said, “except for one somebody found in the Driftless Area.”

“Where did they come from?” I asked him.

“Europe.”

Tuki strolled the sidewalk, sniffing around trees and occasionally looking up when a loud car or truck whizzed down the main drag that runs perpendicular to our block.

We watched the night crawlers munch their way through the fallen leaves. I thought about how amazing it is that there’s this whole world right outside my door I’d never known existed.

If you look closely, you can see my nocturnal wormy neighbors coming up from the ground to the restaurant that is our front yard.

If you look closely, you can see my nocturnal wormy neighbors coming up from the ground to the restaurant that is our front yard.

2015-04-04 22.05.03WormsInYard

The next night, it was cold. The worms stayed underground. But since then, I’ve seen them again. And it will be interesting to see how things go this summer.

Speaking of which, when I looked at my cell phone yesterday, there was a call from a number I didn’t recognize.

After an exchange of “Helloes,” and “Who am I talking tos?” we figured out that Beekeeping Expert had dialed up Baby Beekeeper. The topic? The two pounds of bees I ordered the day I’d taken the Beginning Beekeeping workshop on Valentine’s Day would be arriving and ready for pickup next Monday.

Excitement and panic ensued. Panic because I have to get another deep box and frames ordered, painted (just the outside of the box) and assembled by next Monday. Also, what if I screw up. What if the queen flies away. What if I don’t feed the bees right? Also, what kind of gloves should I get?

It’s going to be an adventure. Stay tuned.

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books, food, Gluten-free, Holidays, Judaism, lifestyle, religion

Heading out of Egypt from Flyover Country: A pre-seder post

I’m a little late on this week’s blog post because I’ve been too busy doing things and not busy enough writing about them.

Tonight, 12 people are going to sit down at my dinner table and take a trip from Flyover Country to Egypt. Then we will flee from slavery there.

I’ve been listening to music all day and cooking, and it has been paradise. Cooking is one of the most relaxing things in the world, and little makes me happier than the prospect of cooking for people I like. I will only cook for you if I like you. You can pay me to write for you, but you cannot pay me to cook for you.

Some things are not for sale.

In the “things for sale” department, however, my most recent Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle story is out in the world. It’s about Amanda Miryam-Khaye Seigel, who grew up in Madison and now lives in New York. She’s this delightful singer/songwriter in her 30s, and she sings in Yiddish. She has this pure soprano voice and the expressive range of a whole theater company. So even if you don’t know a single word of Yiddish, you still have a pretty good idea about what she’s singing. Hard-core Metallica or Nas fans might want to skip it, but if you like show tunes, this will be right up your musical alley.

Anyway, back in the “things not for sale” department, here is what my Seder crew will be tucking into so far: halved and roasted Brussels sprouts with some olive oil and Brady Street Sprinkle from The Spice House, carmelized beets tossed in some espresso vinaigrette from Oro, chicken soup with matzah balls, veggie soup with matzah balls (for the vegetarians) gefilte fish, prime rib (which, when I saw how much it cost, thought, “We are eating my children’s inheritance for Seder dinner!”), eggplant parmesan (for the vegetarians), potato kugel, green beans and a salad (made by my wonderful Milwaukee Mom and cousin Carol).

Dessert is pignolis, chocolates made by the culinary arts students at Large Midwestern Technical College – those students make the best-tasting homework ever – and fresh fruit.

Passover, pignoli & plagues

Pignoli, and a couple of plagues. The plagues will be around next year. The pignoli, not so much.

I’d like to stick around and tell you about Wednesday night, when my friend Rick, Sweetheart and I went to see Judith Claire Mitchell read from her amazing new book “A Reunion of Ghosts.” She read from the book, but she also gave us a look behind the curtain at the life of Fritz Haber, who synthesized chlorine gas, and his wife Clara, the first woman to get a Ph.D. in science in Germany. Her dreams of doing cutting-edge (or any) research got washed away when she married Fritz.

Anyway, it’s time to head back into the kitchen. Those apples and nuts are not going to turn into charoset on their own.

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