Monday, December 28, 2009

Francophiles will enjoy Fig (Asheville)

Telling my daughter how much I lamented the closing of the restaurant Picholine resulted in a new find. As we prepared to head over to Asheville, North Carolina, she cleverly suggested an internet search that informed us the former owner of Picholine now had a bistro in Biltmore Village named Fig.

Smoked Salmon Lunch Entree

The daughter ordered the smoked salmon and I had a very nice green lentil soup followed by a pasta dish featuring white beans, pork medallions, arugula and white truffle oil. We split an order of chocolate mousse for dessert. Wine is available by the bottle, glass and half glass. A half glass, it turns out, is just about a perfect serving for lunch.

Ladies room bathroom fixtures at Fig

As popular as Italian, Mexican and Thai restaurants are, you have to wonder why French restaurants seem so underrepresented these days. My guess is that people conceptualize them in the wrong light. French restaurants are thought to be too expensive, too formal and the food too rich. Fig does not fit that mold. For lunch at least, there was not a white tablecloth in sight and prices ran in the moderate category. The food was seasonal, fresh and well prepared. We give Fig two thumbs up.


Photos of a BIG snow

Snow covered branches

Wearing a snow trimmed hat and smoking a pipe
(He'll melt way before he has to worry about cancer!)

Dwad and Greta in the backyard

Enough snow for an entire family of snow people

Wishing everyone a wondrous and awesome 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Discover the Na'Vi People and Planet Pandora

As a family, the three of us went to see the 3-D movie Avatar Christmas evening. If you have not seen it yet, get yourself to the theater. You are in for a treat not to be missed.

Jake in avatar form

Avatar" follows the exploits of hero/protagonist Jake Sully, a former Marine or member of the "jar-head clan". He was wounded and paralyzed from the waist down in Earth combat. Upon the death of his identical twin scientist brother, he is recruited for his precise genetic match to the expensive avatar created to allow humans and his brother in specific to operate in the toxic atmosphere of planet Pandora.

To venture out of landing craft and research stations earth humans use avatars. Avatars look like the indigenous Na'Vi people of Pandora, but are grown organically and mind-controlled by humans who remain wired up to the avatar in a trance-like state on the ship or at the research station. While acting as avatars, they see, fear, taste and feel like Na'vi, and have all the same physical adeptness.


Using his avatar body, Jake goes on a scouting mission and he falls in love with a young Na'vi female named Neytiri.

Encounter with wood sprites - seeds from the tree of souls

After integrating himself into the Na'vi clan, he finds himself getting caught between the military-industrial forces of Earth represented by the Consortium and the indigenous Na'vi. Now, he has to choose sides in an epic battle that will decide the fate of an entire planet.

In his first movie since Titanic, James Cameron has created a movie that represents both masterful story telling and a cinematic technological breakthrough. Pandora is a beautiful but potentially deadly planet. The phantasmagorical creatures inhabiting this place are well developed and a delight to observe. The green message of the need for harmony with one's surroundings comes through strongly and the limits of Empire are demonstrated.

Go see this movie for the story, the message and the stunning visual effects.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas = God Jul in Swedish

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2010.

Thanks to Nenyaki on Flickr for this Swedish Christmas Julbok

The Jule goat or Julboken is one of the oldest Scandinavian traditional Christmas symbols and is now typically fashioned out of straw. Wikipedia mentions that the Yule or Christmas Goat originally denoted the goat that was slaughtered as part of the holiday festivities. In Scandinavia, people thought of the Yule Goat as an invisible creature that would appear some time before Christmas to make sure that preparations were completed correctly. During the 19th century its role shifted towards becoming the giver of Christmas gifts, in Finland as well as the rest of Scandinavia, with one of the men in the family dressing up as the Yule Goat. The goat was replaced by jultomte or julenisse (Christmas Elf/Father Christmas/Santa Claus) at the end of the century, and the tradition of the man-sized goat disappeared.

Swedish gingerbread cutout cookies are a holiday favorite of mine.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two Favorite Photos

Here are the two favorite photographs from my Mexican vacation.

This young, mask-wearing dog seemed both excited and a little apprehensive as the children from Benito Juarez School prepared for a parade through city streets. She licked my hand just before I took the photo.

This photo succeeds in capturing the motion of the dancers outside the church Basilica Menor de La Soledad while keeping a face or two in focus.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

And into our December, some snow did fall

Time to pull this blog into the present.
Having recapped my September vacation in December, this blog feels stuck in a time warp, slightly like out-of-date magazines in the doctor's office waiting room.

Here are some photographs from our first snow this winter.

These are truly the last roses of the year, Knock Outs that live up to their reputation. I was able to cut a few stems for Thanksgiving.

Stacked firewood

A winter trellis

Evidence that neighborhood children had constructed snowmen was apparent the next morning, even as evidence of the snow itself was disappearing.

Conversations with a snowman

Use words that are pleasing like freezing and snow.
Iceberg and igloo and blizzard and blow.
Try Arctic, Antarctica Say: shiver and shake,
But whatever, you never say, never say: bake.


Don't tell this little fellow, but this blog will shortly return to the sunny environs of my most recent travels, Mexico.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cedarburg's Wine and Harvest Festival

On the last day of vacation, I spent a sweet, end-of-summer Saturday with my sister Lisa, in Historic Cedarburg during the Wine and Harvest Festival.

Dressed in chic black, the Bella Babes took part in the 'Beauty for a Cause' event by "beautifying" hundreds on the Bella Lei Fashion Stage to raise money (and food) to fight hunger.

Here, girls at the festival try out their hairdresser chops.

Donations to the cause got you various hair-twirly services and fun spray on colors.

Popular mostly with the younger set, my sister and I could not restrain ourselves and got in on the fun too.

Lisa's Twirly-do

Afterward we got a bratwurst and a beer at one of the music tents, fortunately
my multicolor-hair picture resides somewhere on my sister's cell phone.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Roadside U-pick and Vegetable Market

Witte's Vegetable Farm

These pictures represent quintessential Wisconsin in September to me, perhaps even a step back in time. While farmer's markets are gaining popularity, U-pick operations seem to be awaiting a similar resurgence in their prospects.

The slightly rolling landscape, fertile fields and dark green trees of late summer remind me of where I grew up.

Witte's is both a pick-your-own and a farm stand operation. The vegetables you see in the front bin are kohlrabi, a vegetable you do not see in the grocery store, either fresh or frozen.

Local Honey

Not only do carnival squash taste great, you have to admire their lovely coloration too.

The mottled shades of green, yellow and gold are definitely part of the fall color palette.

Brussels Sprouts

The best Brussels sprouts are those picked after the plant has been kissed by a frost, they acquire an added sweetness then, so these stalks are too early to be the very best.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Baraboo Chicken Girls

Yes, you can fight City Hall

As recently proven by Maia Persche and Lydia Scott, with appropriate perseverance and patience you can fight City Hall and win. These 14 year-old, young women set out to legalize the raising of chickens within the city limits of Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Their path was not smooth. They met with the City Attorney to draft the original proposal that went before the Baraboo Administrative committee and was rejected. That rejection meant 3 months would need to pass before they could reappear before the committee. They spent that time working with the City Attorney, rewriting the proposal to address the concerns raised. More importantly, they did some grass roots organizing and community education.

Lydia and Maia estimate that 55 people showed up at the next Administrative committee meeting to support their urban chicken proposal. After lengthy discussion one alder-person approved moving their proposal to the full City Council, but they could not get a second to the motion. As the proposal was not rejected outright they could present again the next month when the proposal did move on to the full council.

Here the proposal did pass and become law in the city of Baraboo.

The ordinance requires urban chicken farmers to have a predator-proof, city-approved coop and space for the chickens to run. Owners cannot have roosters and their crowing on the property and cannot slaughter chickens in the residential zone. It allows citizens to keep up to 6 hens on their property.

Lydia and Maia are inspiring community citizens that I met during a breakout session at Fighting Bob Fest.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fighting Bob and the Devil (or his lake anyhow)

Fighting Bob Fest VIII

Examining the reason that I feel compelled to post about fighting Bob Fest, my conclusion is that it stems from the culture clash experienced by a political progressive* living in the lovely, but politically conservative area that is southwestern Virginia/northeastern Tennessee.

Taking place at the Sauk County fairgrounds in Baraboo, approximately 10,000 people gathered to hear a day long roster of speakers. Fighting Bob Fest is an annual Chautauqua featuring progressive speakers, networking opportunities, and entertainment. Fighting Bob Fest carries on the tradition of Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette. Robert La Follette was a US Congressman, the 20th Governor of Wisconsin and served as a US Senator from 1906 to 1925. Historically La Follette has been called "arguably the most important and recognized leader of the opposition to the growing dominance of corporations over the government.

The fest features an "A" list of fabulous speakers and story tellers like investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill.

Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton
(And recently announced candidate for Governor)

Here, in a folksy musical singalong Ed Garvey wears a rub board tie.

Other fantastic speakers included the Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, progressive journalist Greg Palast, syndicated columnist Jim Hightower, Wendell Potter a whistle-blower from the insurance industry, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, Senator Tom Harkin and the Raging Grannies.

Wow! This is the kind of stuff that happens in small town Wisconsin.

Devil's Lake

After Bob Fest, late afternoon found us at Devil's Lake a nearly-10,000-acre state park that is 2 miles south of Baraboo and about 40 miles northwest of Madison, Wisconsin. More people visit Devil’s Lake State Park annually—1.2 to 1.4 million—than any other state park in Wisconsin. Visitors can swim in or boat on the clear, 360-acre spring-fed lake, hike or bike on over 29 miles of park trails.

We opted to hike over the top of the western bluff and circle back along the lakeside trail. As the sun sank toward the horizon, the lighting intensified the colors of the purple quartzite that dominates the valley.

The park is not maintained for rock climbing; do it at your own risk. Loose rocks may be encountered.

Leaves were just beginning to take on fall coloring.

Sumac and asters.

A great white heron is colored yellow by the slanting light of a low hung sun alongside the lake trail.

A charming shore line construction

My tennis shoes next to the aforesaid construction

And all the rental boats are gathered up at the end of the day.


*political progressive = the politically correct term for former liberals like me, people a little to the left of Barack Obama