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Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas - Not So Bad After All

My grandson Liam (3) holding his brother Isaac (9 months)
For me, the Christmas season is like air travel: the dread of it is far worse than living it. 

Right before Thanksgiving, I think "Oh no, another Christmas season will I get through it?" 

But then December 25 comes and goes and I find I actually did enjoy it. This should not surprise me; I have made it easy on myself. I don't bake cookies or send Christmas cards. My house decorating takes exactly 30 minutes. I have eliminated so many of the "shoulds" that what I have left is fun. The hardest part for me was preparing for two family parties when I felt like I was swimming through Jell-o (I get "SAD" - Seasonal Affective Disorder - pretty bad).

Earlier in December, at a party of a group of old friends, I posed the question, "What makes Christmas magic for you?"

The answers were all about the same. Seems like our joy comes from watching our loved ones together, and from giving gifts.

I'm glad I went to that friends' party, because afterwards, I found myself paying more attention to watching when my own family gathered. The awareness made it more precious. Even when I was busy in the kitchen, I could hear the happy hubbub...and I felt grateful. No family is perfect, but I feel blessed to have one, and especially blessed that we enjoy each other.

The movie "Prancer" captures the magic of Christmas for me. It's a 1989 film with superb acting, an incredible musical score by Maurice Jarre, and real Midwestern snow. This family movie is a fairy tale, but it gives beautiful expression to the theme of love and loyalty after death has fractured a family.

Love and loyalty - the two best Christmas gifts. 
Jessie and Prancer - from the movie "Prancer"

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hello again!

Hi! I'm back!

I haven't written a blog in months because I was busy finishing a new book...and then the book went off to a publishing house for consideration and I was busy with inertia...and then winter set in and I was busy with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)....

Anyway, I just got a (nice) rejection letter from the publishing house, so it looks like I'll be self-publishing my book - sooner than later, I hope.

I hope to get back to blogging, and back to the human race. I never believed in SAD until it hit me a few years back. I hereby pledge to try to use my light box faithfully. It seems to help. At least during this dark season, we get to see DEER come to our feeder. Beautiful!

Hope to "see" you soon!

Gail Grenier is the author of Calling All HorsesDog Woman, and Don't Worry Baby, all available from

Friday, October 18, 2013

Author Visit in Menomonee Falls Monday Oct. 21

I will speak at The Highlands at Wildwood Lake, N77 W17700 Lake Park Dr. (just west of the Arboretum off Town Hall Rd.) in Menomonee Falls on Monday Oct. 21 at 1:00 pm. I will discuss my book, Dog Woman, and bring photos and memorabilia from the real-life Menomonee Falls woman and her dogs that inspired the novel. I will have copies of Dog Woman and my other two books available for sale and signing. The event is free and open to the public, with light refreshments. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Police Beat - Markesan, Wisconsin - August 2013

Compiled and reported by Scott Mundro for Markesan Regional Reporter -

Tuesday, August 6 - Suspicious -  Police were notified by dispatch that a concerned caller had observed a driver of a vehicle who was being held at gunpoint as the vehicle was driving through Markesan. Police searched the area but were unable to immediately find the vehicle in question. Moments later, the driver of the vehicle called dispatch and stated he was at home and was fine. Police arrived on scene immediately. The driver stated the gun was on the front seat of the car, at which point, police discovered that the gun was a wooden toy gun. The individual who was waving the gun stated she didn't mean anything by it, but now knew that what she did was wrong. Additional sheriff's deputies arrived on scene but cleared the area once it was determined the gun was a toy and no one was in immediate danger.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Police Beat – Markesan, Wisconsin – July/August 2013

Reported by Scott Mundro for the Markesan Regional Reporter:

7/27/13 – Animal Problem – Police received a complaint of a dog barking on Hollander Street. Police traveled to the area and were able to identify the animal in question. Speaking with the owner, police asked that the dog be kept inside more, so as to prevent it from barking.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My new book, Dessert First, is done!

Once again I locked myself in our house trailer on Little Green Lake to finish a book.

Today I finished typing 80,000 words of Dessert First, a collection of favorites of my writing from the past thirty years.

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Ripon, Wisconsin, eating coffee ice cream and drinking decaf.

The girl knows how to party. Woop woop!!!

If I were more technologically clever, I'd attach the cover design. It's a beaut. It's based on the photo above of my husband and me canoeing on Little Green last month. Our friend Kathy Hynes Prochnow snapped the pic with her phone as Mike and I were paddling like crazy people to get home before dark!

More to come...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Malinda Beck - a remarkable life

I had the privilege of knowing Malinda Beck for almost 30 years. She was the remarkable mother of my friend Pauline Beck. Here is the eulogy Pauline wrote for her mother....

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Police Beat - Markesan Wisconsin

I'm immersed in editing my new book, Dessert First, so I'll say hi to you by way of "Police Beat" (entries compiled by Scott Mundro for Markesan Regional Reporter):

7/07/13 - SUSPICIOUS - Shortly after 4:00 p.m., police were contacted regarding a suspicious vehicle that had been parked on North Margaret Street for approximately a half-hour with a male waiting inside. Police approached the vehicle and made contact with the owner who stated he was waiting to meet up with someone for work. Police made contact with the second individual, a local resident, who confirmed the man's story.

7/03/13 - SUSPICIOUS - Police were contacted by a concerned citizen who believed he had witnessed a "drug deal" take place. Police made contact with one of the individuals involved. The individual was cooperative during the conversation and allowed police to see the contents of his pockets. Police observed no money and no drugs. Police were unable to locate the second individual.

7/02/13 - CRIMINAL MISCHIEF - Police were approached by local resident who stated she believed that her house had been shot. Police arrived at the home and observed three small holes near the front door. Police spoke with neighbors who stated the home's previous tenant was very "rough" on the house, often shooting it with a pellet gun, bow and arrow, and even hitting it with a hammer. Police contacted the property owner who was unaware of any holes in the property from the previous tenant.

7/01/13 - TRAFFIC HAZARD - While on routine patrol, police observed a low-hanging branch over Manchester Street. Police contacted Public Works, and employees removed the hazard.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Police Beat - Markesan, Wisconsin


On 6/29/13, Markesan experienced an armed robbery. Someone used a gun to hold up the local pharmacy. The robber wanted prescription drugs. Most of the police reports in Markesan resemble these as reported for the Markesan Regional Reporter by Scott Mundro:

6/3/13 - NOISE - Police were contacted by an anonymous complainant regarding a noise problem at an E. John Street residence. Police located the source of the noise and made contact with the residents, instructing the individuals to turn the music down or off. The individuals understood and complied.

6/16/13 - FOUND PROPERTY - Police were contacted by an individual who had lost his wallet and had learned that it had been found and would be turned in to the police department. Police were later contacted by the individual who found the wallet and wished to arrange a time to drop the wallet off. Once the wallet was in police possession, the owner was contacted.

6/13/13 - ANIMAL PROBLEM - Police were on routine duty when three cows were observed on Highway 44 in the ditch walking toward the roadway. With the assistance of a Good Samaritan, the cows were walked back to the property and the owner of the cows was contacted to secure the animals on the property.

6/11/13 - LOST PROPERTY - Police were contacted by an individual regarding a lost iPod Touch during June Dairy Days. The item was discovered lost after riding one of the carnival rides. The complainant spoke with the ride operator who stated someone did approach him with the iPod, at which point the operator instructed the individual to drop the iPod off at the ticket booth. After the complainant spoke with the ticket booth, however, it was discovered that no iPod had been dropped off.

6/11/13 - ANIMAL NOISE - Police contacted a local resident regarding her dogs that allegedly bark when no one is home. The individual advised that she would try to keep the dogs quiet.

6/11/13 - ODOR - Police were notified by dispatch of an anonymous complaint of a smoldering fire pit at a local business. Police arrived on scene and spoke with the owner of the business who stated he had cleaned out his office and was now burning numerous old binders, books and paperwork. Police asked that the fire be extinguished immediately. The business owner complied with the request.

6/10/13 - ANIMAL PROBLEM - A concerned citizen contacted police about a dog that was found in the roadway in front of Markesan State Bank. The dog was wearing a collar but no tags. The dog was transported to the Markesan Vet Clinic.

6/10/13 - ESCORT - Markesan police escorted a funeral procession for a local funeral home to Holy Family Parish. The escort took place without incident.

6/29/13 - CAR/DEER - During a routine traffic stop on Highway 44 in southern Markesan, police observed a semi tractor hit a deer. After being hit, the deer ran off, and police were unable to locate it.

6/29/13 - LOCKOUT - Police were dispatched to a N. Margaret Street address on the report of a subject locking his keys inside the vehicle. Police verified the driver's registration and gained entry to the vehicle. [There were two more such incidents reported.]

6/26/13 - CITIZEN ASSIST - Police made contact with a citizen who requested assistance in retrieving a carpet cleaner from a second party. However the complainant was unable to make contact with the second party. Police told the complainant to call if further assistance was needed.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Nancy Reinsvold has a new address: in heaven


          The day a doctor told Nancy she had four months to live, she cried and cried. She was not ready to leave this earth. That was back in March of 2011, when she was 77 years old. She had a big free rummage for her friends that summer. I got several lawn ornaments. Eventually a doctor told her she’d make it to age 78 and beyond. He was right. She missed her lawn ornaments, so I gave them back. Nancy lived to 79 years and two days. Her room at Zilber Hospice was filled with people celebrating her birthday last week Friday.

          The nurses said they’d never seen a patient with so many friends. I can tell you why. Nancy was quick to love people, and we knew we were loved. She called us all "Sweetheart." She gave us smooches right on the lips. We hugged her skinny bones and she us hugged right back.

          Nancy loved to laugh. One time I visited her, she told me about a robber who drove his car through the glass windows of an Apple store, in order to steal a bunch of computers. Unknown to him, the license plate fell off his car in the process. The police were waiting for him when he got back home.

          Boy, did Nancy laugh at that story.

          She was proud of her ability to turn junk into beauty. When you visited Nancy, you might find her with fingers covered with green paint. She liked to turn second-hand vases and lawn decorations into fine art objects with her spray paint can.

          Before she broke her hip, she was down to 100 lbs. and wore a size zero jeans. She told me the story of how her pants fell off her one day. Her arms were full of non-alcoholic beers her son had given her, and all of a sudden she realized her pants were around her ankles. She looked back at her son and said, "I'm mooning you."

          She added that that the falling-down trousers were the red ones with the manufactured torn-up look – a tear here, a tear there, threadbare, like the ones worn by young people and Hollywood stars. Nancy liked to dress spiffy.

          The day she broke her hip, I visited her in the hospital. She had dirty fingernails and I knew why. She had surely been in her garden that morning before she fell. She loved to toil in her vegetable and flower gardens. Many times when I visited, her trousers had dirt-covered knees. One day she told me she had worked so hard that she had to come in and rest. She had already put in hours with her hands in the dirt. And it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet. She used to wake up early and wait for the sun to rise so she could go work outside. I took a photo of Nancy last summer. It shows her holding an enormous tomato – one she grew. She was so proud of it that she called me to come see it and enjoy a BLT.

          She was tough. She tried to move a heavy lawn ornament one spring. It fell on her and afterward, her side "hurt a lot." But she never went to the doctor. Three months later, the doc looked at an MRI and said, "You broke your rib a while back." She had cancer but she still healed well.

          Sometimes Nancy talked about serious stuff like the terrorists and the stormy weather. She said, "I don't know what's gonna happen to our world. The killing and the taking God off our money and the hurricanes and the drought."  But Nancy didn’t talk about these things often. And she never complained about her own lot in life; more commonly she complained about silly annoyances, and laughed at them.

          She reminisced about being a single mother to three young boys, working in the factory full time for almost four decades to keep a roof over their heads, never having a car. "I had to take my baby in a stroller through the snow to the babysitter at 4:00 a.m.," she said. "I don't know how I did it…. But you do what you have to do."

          Nancy's husband abandoned her when they had two young sons and she was pregnant with their third. She always had a heart for single mothers. I met her when she became a volunteer for HOPE Network for Single Mothers. She was a hilarious volunteer, part of a team that sorted and folded donated clothing. She was the one to put funny donated hats on her head. Always the clown. She shared some donated clothing with Erik, her garbage man, for his grandchild. Erik was one of many people who had become a friend. He stopped every week and parked his big garbage truck in front of her house. She always had a treat for him.

          She volunteered for a lot of charities – all without having a car. She received a commendation for her volunteerism from the president. It hangs in a frame on her wall.

          Nancy's mother died when Nancy was an infant. In all her years, she never knew a mother's love. She raised her three sons without the support of a partner or a mom. She told me that she looked forward to meeting her mother someday in heaven. But right up until the last days in hospice, she talked about the flowers and vegetables she had planted in her yard. She still was not ready to leave this earth. Finally at the end, she became tired, very tired.

          In heaven, Nancy will surely have no more chemotherapy, needles, pills, Ensure, oatmeal, yogurt, pudding, or applesauce. If God needs a volunteer, Nancy will surely be there working and putting funny hats on her head. Meanwhile, she’s left some things behind: a yard full of flowers and vegetables...and lawn ornaments! 

          She also leaves behind many friends and family members who have hearts full of the love she spent so lavishly. We are her sweethearts.

Gail Grenier is the author of Calling All Horses, Dog Woman, and Don't Worry Baby, all available from

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nancy is ready

My dear friend Nancy Reinsvold will transfer to Zilber Hospice in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin tomorrow morning. Today we talked about hospice.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ta-da! My new book has a name!

Naming a book is like naming a child – it’s a task fraught with emotion. The title for my new book was a mystery to me after I compiled favorites from more than three decades of writing. I read and re-read the essays and poems and realized they covered too many emotions to name. A theme emerged, but how could I express it?…something about finding happiness after a family tragedy.

I asked friends, family, and blog readers to help me select a title. They were generous with their ideas, but the votes came to a stalemate, with a tie between "The Dance of Life" and "Waking Up." Nothing felt right. The mystery sat and stared, stubborn.

Markesan Police Beat - June 6, 2013

This week there were some serious postings about OWIs and such. I don't reprint them. Here are the lighter ones:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Send prayers for my Nancy, a wisp of air

You always hear how an old person breaks a hip and that's the beginning of the end.

I hope that's not so for my dear friend Nancy.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Help me choose a name for my new book!!

     I haven’t written a blog post in a while because I’ve been on fire working on a book. It’s a collection of new personal essays and poems, along with favorites from my award-winning syndicated column...all nonfiction. 

     In other words, the book is a bunch of short bits...or as some would call it, bathroom reading.

     I’m in a jam. I have an idea for a title, but I’m not sold on it. The last time I put together a book like this, I named it by borrowing from one of the essays within. I have always loved that title: Calling all Horses. I think those words are just quirky enough to get a reader’s attention. That quirkiness also captures my, um, slightly skewed view of life.

     Another reason I like the title Calling all Horses is that it’s short and easy to say. I’ve found that when you write a book, you say the title over and over…and over. My novels also have short titles that are easy to repeat – Dog Woman and Don’t Worry Baby. I like short.

     My new book will carry this title or something like it: [Blank], And Other Glimpses of an American Life. The subtitle is of course And Other Glimpses of an American Life. The [Blank] part is the main title, and it's where I’m stuck. So I’m asking for your help.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Police Beat - Markesan, WI - Mid-May, 2013

5/16/13 - NOISE - Police were contacted by a local resident wishing to file a noise complaint against the Markesan Shell station because its "yellow blow up ornament" reportedly makes too much noise. Police contacted the on-duty clerk regarding the noise. The clerk immediately turned the machine off and stated night shift employees would be instructed to turn it off earlier in the night as well.

5/16/13 - ESCORT - Markesan police assisted a local church with a funeral escort within the City of Markesan. The escort occurred without incident.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Police Beat - Markesan, WI - May 16, 2013

To properly read "Police Beat" in the Markesan Regional Reporter, you must hum the music from "Dragnet" between entries. We're back to traveling "up north" to Little Green Lake every weekend. Before we even get to our trailer on the lake, we pull into the gas station and pick up a copy of the Markesan Regional Reporter so we can find out what's been going on in town. Last week's paper had some rather sad reports of disturbances, citizen assists, citizen disputes, and an OWI. However, we did spot these two gems, gems that assure us that life in Markesan is pretty safe:

5/07/13 - CITIZEN ASSIST - Police were contacted by a local resident regarding a motorcycle that was left on their property approximately one year earlier. According to the complainant, the bike was left to be repaired; however, after the repair costs were determined, the bike's original owner abandoned the bike. The complainant further stated to police that the DMV stated local police could deem a vehicle as abandoned, which would allow ownership to be transferred to the property owner. After researching local ordinances, however, police informed the complainant that no ordinance appeared to give police such a power, further informing the complainant that the matter is civil in nature.

5/07/13 - TRAFFIC MISC. - A concerned citizen contacted police regarding the speed of traffic along North Street, a roadway that is largely dirt and not paved. Police ran stationary radar on multiple vehicles along road, which has a speed limit of 30 MPH. Police noted the vehicles driving as slow as 15 MPH and as fast as 22 MPH. Police also traveled the road, noting that at even 10 MPH a great deal of dust was kicked up behind the vehicle.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How do you change the world? One child at a time. Virtual book tour with children's author Heidi Stacy

Today’s virtual author tour is with Heidi Stacy. Heidi is a parent, grandparent, educator, former kindergarten teacher, speaker, and neuroscience researcher. She was named the Betty Brinn Children's Museum Teacher of the Year for Hands On Learning. Her first children's book, Back Rub-A-Dubs, is a hilarious romp through different kinds of back rubs we can give, all sung to the tune of "Frère Jacques." I bought five of these books and gave them to the parents of my grandchildren and "adopted" grandchildren.
Heidi likes to quote anthropologist Ashley Montagu, Ph.D, who said, "Our survival depends on touch." Heidi says, "Through many first-hand experiences, I have found that when basic needs are met, bonding, trust, good behaviors, and strong cognitive learning is born in children. Touch is one such basic need."


Heidi's newest book, Hoppy Feelings, will be out soon. She answered some questions about it (below)....

Friday, May 3, 2013

Virtual book tour: author Karen McQuestion answers questions

I’m having fun "blog-hosting" my writing colleagues on their virtual book tours. Today I introduce you to Karen McQuestion, who once took my writing class (she didn’t need it), and who has helped me immeasurably in my own publishing life. She is a national best-selling author who writes books for adults as well as for kids and teens. Her novels have been published by Amazon Publishing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Brilliance Audio, and have been translated into multiple languages. She lives in Wisconsin with her family and is always working on her next novel.
Karen is the most accomplished author I know. Best of all, she keeps her feet - and her attitude - firmly on Mother Earth. At the end of the interview, you'll find links to her books and sites.                 -- Gail

Monday, April 22, 2013

Don't be afraid of big bad grammar

I was recently invited to write a little piece on grammar for Christine Schimpf’sblog.  Chris has taken my Creative Writing class for the past few years. I had the privilege, week by week, of watching the birth and growth of her fascinating book Nick, the Journey of a Lifetime. Here’s what I wrote for a future post on her blog:

After teaching English and writing for decades, and after edited hundreds of manuscripts, this is what I think: people are way too scared of grammar. They should pay more attention to usage.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Virtual book tour: Christine Schimpf tells an immigrant's true story

I’d like to share an interview with Christine Schimpf, my writing student and friend, who recently published her book Nick, the Journey of a Lifetime. It’s no secret to any reader of my blog that I love all things ethnic. How could I not love a story like Nick’s?

Christine Schimpf at a book signing
Gail: Tell me about your book, Chris.

Chris: What I have heard the most about my book, from those who have read it, was “It was hard to put down.” The story begins with an aerial view of the village of Calma, Yugoslavia, formerly the Austrian-Hungary Empire. The reader enters the world of a small ethnic group of people known as Donauschwabens. Soon the reader is walking in the shoes of the Nicholas Russ. He’s a young man working a carpentry apprenticeship. The coins in his pocket are jingling as he walks down the cobblestone walk, making his way to local Gausthaus to meet up with his favorite girl Theresa.

Gail: Interesting background. How does the story take off?

Chris: Well, the reader soon discovers that Nick has a bit of a problem. He finds out that his sweetheart, Theresa, has been promised to a butcher in the next village. Now, this is not that unusual given the time period. Parents often arranged marriages for their offspring to benefit not only their child, but themselves as well. In this case, an alliance with a butcher would be welcoming, as meat was a scarce commodity. Unfortunately, this arrangement is not what Nick had in mind, so he does what any man in love would do.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"42" - We didn't want it to end

My husband and I loved "42." As we walked out of the theatre, I told him "I heard that music getting louder and I thought, Oh no, it can't be ending."

Mike said, "That's exactly how I felt. I didn't want it to end."

This was a first for us.

"Warm Bodies" - warm fun!

I'm belatedly reviewing the movie "Warm Bodies" because it deserves note.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why do we keep reading about the Holocaust?

Anne Frank
I just finished reading Night by Elie Wiesel. It's a small book, a bit over 100 pages long. It kicked me in the gut. It tells the story of a teenage boy, Elie Wiesel, who loses his family - and his faith -when humans demonstrate their inhumanity in the Jewish ghetto and in the concentration camps.

By coincidence, just before I read Night, I read the two graphic novels in the Maus series by Art Spiegelman. Like Wiesel, Spiegelman records one tale after another that breaks my heart.

I've read so many books about the Holocaust. Why do I keep reading them? Why do I keep them on my bookshelf instead of giving them away?
Elie Wiesel

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Eight reasons book clubs are fun

I just got home from my second book club appearance as an author.

From these two book club visits, I have learned these things about book clubs:

Monday, April 8, 2013

An Emerging Miracle in the Middle East

Just below is an article written by my friend, James F. Palka, with big news for Tucson - and for all of us. This Palestinian/Israeli peace project reminds me of the Ulster Project that I am part of - in which Catholic and Protestant teens visit Milwaukee during the whole month of July to play, party, pray and serve together, then return to Belfast with an understanding of each others' humanity. If they can make peace in Northern Ireland, they can make peace in the Middle East.... Here is Jim's article:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"On the Road" movie - I went for Jack

I fell in love with Jack Kerouac a dozen years after he died.

I'd been an English major in college, and I smugly figured I certainly had "met" all the American writers. Then a friend of my brother's said, "You should try reading Jack Kerouac." The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I had never read the man.

I found a copy of Jack's Big Sur in my hometown Menomonee Falls library, and was instantly hooked. I loved the way Jack wrote from the heart. I admired the way he captured an era. Those are my goals as a writer.

I barrelled through Kerouac's books one after the other during the next several years. My husband, Mike, became a Kerouackian also. We traveled to Quebec in 1987 to participate in an amazing Kerouac conference that celebrated Jack's French-Canadian roots. We also went to a couple of the annual "Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!" conferences in Jack's Massachusetts hometown. We were there for the 1988 opening of Kerouac park. I got to shake Stella Kerouac's hand and say to her, "Thank you for taking care of Jack." She was a tiny old lady. She shook my hand and smiled.

When you say "Kerouac" to most people, they say, "Oh yeah, On the Road." It's his most famous book and represents a parting-of-the-sea moment in American literature and, one might argue, in American culture as well. On the Road is a rambling account of cross-country travels with a wild bunch of people who do not fit in with post-WWII conformity. On the Road is not my favorite of Kerouac's books. I prefer his more quiet and personal novels Dr. Sax, The Subterraneans, Tristessa, and Visions of Gerard.

The movie version of On the Road just came to Milwaukee. I almost didn't go after I learned that Kristen Stewart had a lead role - I tired quickly of her bored look in the "Twilight" movies, although I did like her as Joan Jett.

I was also discouraged from seeing the movie when I read a scathing review of the film - to the effect that the movie captured all of the dissipation and none of the joy of the book, and that the film went nowhere. After seeing the movie, I agree with that assessment, but I'm still glad I went. I went for Jack, who so longed for the movie to be made.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Christian Passover meal and generational sadness

Symbolic Passover foods

Last Sunday, Mike and I participated in a Christian Passover meal at our church.

I was moved to tears.

Why does the ritual move me so? I have an idea about that, but my notion might be hard for many people to believe.

Before I get to that, let me tell you about the ritual.

Whew! - A stay of execution on a big medical bill

A TV commercial features a group of grown men sitting in a doctor's waiting room. Man after man, in turn, stretches his mouth wide open in a wail - and you hear the bawling of an infant.

The punch line: Getting a colorectal screening isn't that bad.

I laughed when I saw the ad. Then I said to my husband, Mike, "Yeah, you won't cry like a baby until you see the bill."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Naima Adedapo + Light Show + Beach Party, Yeah!!

Naima Adedapo at the Domes
in Milwaukee March 14, 2013
 Miriam Levle, Naima Adedapo, and Jah Dwayne Tafari of
R.A.S. Movement at another appearance
Up until last week, the only time I saw Naima Adedapo was on TV, when she was a contestant on "American Idol." On March 14 for the first time, I saw her in person. She was singing - and doing amazing African dancing - at Milwaukee's "Domes" botanical park.

What an incredible show. Leaping! Jumping! Kicking! Drumming! Naima is currently part of a band called R.A.S. Movement, where the other members are as energetic as Naima herself. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Eight cool styles...Don't think so....

Congrats, Germantown Warhawks.
The  newspaper was lying on the table sideways in front of me. I glanced at it and wondered why the front page would feature 1950s cheerleaders. Those hideous long skirts! How could the girls jump in those draggy things?

I looked again, and realized my error. It was a photo of the WIAA Division 1 Boys State basketball champion team, the Germantown Warhawks. Their ultra-long basketball shorts truly resemble cheerleader skirts of yore. Obviously, the boys can jump in those draggy things, but how? (I'm not advocating the tightie-whitie looking basketball shorts of the days of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but there must be a happy medium.)

This got me to thinking of other "stylish" things that are impractical or (in my opinion) ugly:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Five steps to hosting a soup exchange party

Soup party gang 2012: Pauline, Anna, Katie, Arleen, Rachl, AJ, Chris, Gail
I just hosted my second annual soup party. Wisconsin is so weird. Last year we had our soup exchange in March and we wound up spending a lot of time outside on the deck; the temp was in the 60s (or so). This year we met again in March...but there was hardly enough room for my friends to park their cars around the plowed-up piles of snow.

So it goes in our beloved state.

No whether the weather, I'm always ready for soup. I never get sick of it...probably because there are so many different kinds. If you're sick of brothy soup, you can make one thick enough to walk across and vice versa. If you're sick of vegetable soup, you can make meat soup and vice versa. If you're sick of creamy soup, you can make a brothy one and vice versa...on and on.

A friend told me about a Christmas cookie exchange she goes to every year. The participants are VERY strict about the rules. If you bring three dozen, you leave with three dozen. If you bring six dozen, you leave with six dozen. No variation.

My cooking friends are much more loosey-goosey in giving out their soup. As Chris says, "It's just SOUP."

Last year we had eight cooks who attended the gathering, with soups featured from nine cooks (one couldn't make it but sent her soup along). See the photo above. This year we had only six cooks, so we had less variety in soups. (Photo is at the end of this blog post.)

This year we had more variety in age: the youngest was 28 and the oldest was 78. Last year the youngest was 27 and the oldest was 64.

The age difference is part of the fun. I've noticed that young and old take turns shocking each other. There are a LOT of laughs.

I went to my first soup exchange in 2010, where we snacked on cheese and crackers, drank wine, and chatted before doing the exchange.

At the two  exchanges I hosted, I chose to serve a simple supper first: vegetarian chili and cornbread. We also had tea, coffee, strawberry shortcake, and some wine.

Someone suggested doing a "best soup" tasting and judging, but we can't quite figure out the logistics, with all the talking, laughing, eating and imbibing we have to do. I think my friends are a little too relaxed for a juried event.

Here's how we do the exchange:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A kickin' broth base for soup

My son found a wonderful recipe from Bon Appétit for brined turkey and gravy. This dish has become the centerpiece for our family's Thanksgiving feast. One year I was lucky enough to inherit the leftover gravy and it tasted so good - and so unusual (the secret  is apple cider) - that I turned it into a soup.
I recommend these gravy ingredients to flavor broth for soup. Once you make the broth, you can add any flora or fauna you want to make the soup hearty.