Summer view

Summer view
A View From Our Deck

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nana and Papa's Adventure #???-Columbia Park

As long as the weather holds, we are determined to get to places we have heard about but not visited.  Last week when we visited Fond du lac, Wisconsin and the Lakeside Park lighthouse, we were actually looking for another park.  Our grandson Ewan and his other grandparents visited a park with a 70 foot climbing tower.  We couldn't find it last week so we finally got the correct name and headed out this afternoon.  It is about an hour from our house, so not too far.


Columbia Park consists of a boat landing, a camping area, a playground, a basketball court, an open shelter area and an observation tower with a navigational beacon on the top.   Our goal for the day was to climb the tower.  We parked in the parking area.  There was a couple about to leave so we were the only ones there.  As we approached the tower, it looked really tall.   I guess 70 feet is pretty tall.

The Columbia Park Observation tower.

The information on the sign said the tower was originally built as a water tower for a Fond du lac factory.  Then in 1936 it was moved and erected at this harbor on Lake Winnebago by the WPA.  It was to be used as an observation tower and navigational aid.  Over the years it deteriorated and needed to be rebuilt.  About 25 years ago the tower was restored with metal stairs, landings and observation decks.  From the top of the tower you can see a panoramic view of Lake Winnebago and the surrounding areas.  We actually climbed to the top without much trouble.  We briefly rested about half way up, but did well.  I got seven stairs on my Fitbit.  While we were standing on the top a gentleman joined us on the top.  He said on a clear day you can see Menasha and Oshkosh.  It was a little overcast on the horizon, but we could see very far.

View looking toward Menasha WI

Boat coming into the harbor.

Leaving the lake, there is a channel with a 900 foot harbor wall leading to the boat landing.

Wind energy is important but these turbines kind of spoil the beautiful view.


Coming down was easier than going up.

But it was still nice to be back on ground safe and sound.

About 3:10 we left this beautiful park.  We needed to get to our grandson Dylan's soccer match in Berlin Wisconsin which was about an hour away.  On the way out of the park, we saw the roadside was lined with these Wild Aster plants.  They are gorgeous this time of year. 


We spent the next hour watching Dylan play soccer.  He played the whole game a little bit injured but still did a great job.  It was a beautiful night for a game.


Another afternoon adventure in the books.  Let's see where else we can go in a few days.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Grocery Shopping Distraction

This will be a short little blog.  I just want to document the weather today in Wisconsin.  It is September 15, 2017.  By now we are usually turning the corner into fall, but today felt like anything but fall.  I'm not sure, but this could have been our first 90 degree day of the summer.  I guess it is still summer for another week.  I noticed the car temperature was 89 degrees late this afternoon.  No matter what, it was very unseasonable.  We started out the afternoon going to Aldi's grocery shopping, but on the way we got side tracked because it was such a beautiful day.  We stopped at a lighthouse in Fond du lac, WI and walked up four flights of steps to the top.  It is open to the public with no admission fee.  We were surprised how windy it was up there because it was very hot on the ground.  The lighthouse was built in 1933 and looks over Lake Winnebago.  This lake is very large and covers 137,000 acres.  The Upper Fox River flows past our house, travels for many miles and spills into this lake and the Lower Fox River flows out of the lake and into Lake Michigan.  The Fox River is one of the few rivers which flows from south to north.  From the top of the lighthouse we could see out onto the lake.  There was very little activity considering how nice it was, but I imagine most people are finished with their summer vacations and are back to school and work.  We could also see the marina and the beautiful flower gardens in Lakeside Park. 


A view of Lake Winnebago.  A sailboat can be seen in the distance.

A view of the marina.

One of the many flower gardens in the park.

After we left here, we noticed a thrift store that we hadn't seen before.  It was very nice, clean and inexpensive.  So many thrift stores have items that cost as much as a regular store.  I got two good deals.  I got a large pizza paddle for removing a pizza from the oven safely.  It cost $1 and a tripod for $3.  The tripod can be used on a table top or extends to at least three feet.


Finally we stopped at the grocery store.  We didn't need much so it was a quick stop.  It was a great day.  We didn't leave home until afternoon, and returned in time to make dinner at home.  Anything that needs to be done at home can wait. Days like this should be used for fun adventures.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Our Interstate Park Adventure

This is the second week in September.  The weather in Wisconsin has been amazing.  It seems impossible for us to have such perfect weather with other parts of the country suffering so much.   We know that 80 degree temperatures are not going to last so we have to make the most of it.

A few days ago we made plans with friends who are visiting their daughter and grandsons.  We were meeting for breakfast.  Over the weekend we talked about having breakfast with them and then finding someplace fun to go afterward.  We met at 9:30 and visited until noon.  I'm sure the restaurant was ready to kick us out.  After saying our goodbyes, we headed up the highway.  It was such a nice day, we decided to pick up the flowers from the cemetery where my parents are buried.  The flowers have to be off the graves by October 1 or they throw them all away.  It is a two hour trip that we have made many times.  Since I didn't let any of my relatives know we would be in town and I don't think it's nice to just show up unannounced at peoples houses, we didn't stop to visit anyone.  We got back on the road and headed further north toward Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  When we got there, we kept going.  In June my cousin Jean and her husband Thom had posted on Facebook that they visited a state park which was shared with Wisconsin and Minnesota.  I always kept that in my memory.  It is called Interstate State Park near St. Croix Falls, WI.  I had packed a bag for us, just in case we decided not to go home that night.  I'm glad I did.  I booked a room at the Holiday Inn in St. Croix Falls.  Phone apps make that so easy now days.  By 6:00pm we had safely arrived.

In the morning we got up bright and early.  We loaded the car, ate breakfast and checked out.  By 9:30 we were headed for the park which was only three miles away.  Since earlier we purchased a Senior State Park sticker, it didn't cost any additional fee to get in.  Interstate Park is the oldest state park in Wisconsin.  For more than 100 years visitors have come to this area to see the beauty.



There are many trails in the park.  The first one we chose was called the Pothole Trail.  This trail has rough terrain and stone steps but it was only a .4 mile loop.  I have to say, it seemed longer than that.  Glacial potholes could be seen along the trail.  Some of the potholes are small and some are a little larger.


One of many potholes along the trail

Stone steps on the trail.

The trail looks over the gorge of the Dalles of the St. Croix River.  It was a beautiful view.



I made my husband nervous when I climbed up on this rock.  It is straight down behind me.


After we made this loop, we drove to the trail head for the Summit Rock Trail.  This trail took us to the highest point on the bluffs.  It had more beautiful views.


Notice the bridge at the top of the picture.  Later we will cross that bridge into Minnesota.


The Summit Rock Trail descends into the Echo Canyon Trail and connects to the Lake O' the Dalles Trail.  When we finished Summit Rock we drove to the beginning of the Dalles Trail and approached the Echo trail from another direction.  On the road we noticed another observation area.  I saw this sign which was placed in 1938, a hundred years after it was settled.  The CCC camps developed and improved this park from 1935 to 1940.  There are pictures of this process at the visitors center along with other museum collections from the area.



There is a nice parking area across from the  Lake O' The Dalles Trail.  From here you can go to the beach, a playground and picnic area.  We walked down to the lake and then entered the Echo Canyon Trail.



This trail follows an extinct riverbed.  It was a lot cooler along this trail because we were at the bottom of the canyon walls.  Since my husband Mike was a science teacher in his working years, he could point out geological points of interest.  Looking up you see the rocky talus.



Finally we crawled out of the canyon.  It was steep but spaced in a way that it wasn't too exhausting.  You can see Mike picked up a walking stick along the way.  If we would have planned ahead, he would have taken the one he has at home.


Finally we returned to the car.  It had been a great day, but it was about noon and time to head home.  We went back to the visitors center to get some water.  The nice lady who worked there asked if we had seen the potholes on the Minnesota side of the park.  We had not because we thought we had to drive over there and we thought the bridge was closed for construction.  We were wrong.  The bridge was open but she told us how we could walk across the bridge from the Wisconsin side.  She said it would be a shame to go home without seeing the Minnesota side.  So off we went again walking across the pedestrian bridge which ran next to the highway.

Swirling rapids below the bridge

View from the Walking Bridge

We were greeted by this sign after we crossed the bridge.

At this location there was a paddleboat tour which was about to leave.  It would have been a good option if we hadn't already seen all the beautiful views from the trails.



I am so glad we took the extra time to visit this part of the park.  The potholes were huge and amazing.  It must be a special place because they were doing a photo shoot there.  From what I could gather, they are opening a new planetarium in Minneapolis and are using these shots from the park.

The green you see is the pothole.  It is covered with algae.



This pothole was so large there were stairs to the bottom.

Looking up from the inside.  The walls were so smooth.

It was finally time to go home.  We had a great time even though it was short.  We could have spent a week because there is so much to see.  The pictures don't even begin to do it justice.  We are also very proud that we were able to do this at our age.  For those who are familiar with Fitbits, my husband registered 60 flights of stairs.  It takes me two trips up and down our basement steps to register just one.  The best part is that we were able to get up in the morning without any ill effects.  It even motivated us to do more of this while we still can.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Have You Seen A Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar?

I have written a lot about Monarch butterflies in previous posts and the fact that I let milkweed plants grow where ever they want in my yard and garden.  It is my little way of helping the declining Monarch population.  If you want to read some of the posts I have written about Monarch's, just type monarch butterfly into the search box.  If you have milkweed plants, you have probably noticed  caterpillar eating on the leaves that looks different from the Monarch caterpiller.  They are called a Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar.  Another name is Milkweed Tiger Moth.  At first I thought it was a tent caterpillar because the color was similar.  Looking more closely I saw all the hairs.  When the Monarch butterfly caterpillar, the Milkweed bug http://www.thecabincountess.com/2015/09/the-milkweed-bug.html and the Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar eat the leaves of a milkweed plant, they are ingesting a highly toxic chemical.  The milky sap in the plant is poisonous to humans and animals.  Birds feast on a lot of different insects but somehow they know not to eat Monarch butterflies, Milkweed bugs or the Tiger moth.  They retain the poison even after changing from a caterpillar into the moth or butterfly.  Predators learn that the orange and black color is a warning, and they shouldn't eat them.  Bats also like to eat insects but they can't detect the orange and black in the dark.  Amazingly the milkweed tiger moth has an organ that emits an ultrasonic signal easily detected by bats. This signal warns the bat of a toxic bad tasting meal and bats soon learn to avoid the tiger moth.  The tiger moth caterpillar turns into a drab brown moth but the signal they emit protects them at that stage of life.


The milkweed tussock or tiger moth caterpillar.

The leaves of this milkweed are being eaten off.

All the leaves are gone from this plant, but the seed pods remain.

I think these caterpillars could be very destructive.  They can eat the leaves off a whole plant very quickly.  Fortunately they leave the seed pods which will burst open soon leaving the wind to distribute seeds which will turn into new plants next Spring.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Making Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk

By now most of us have seen how to make caramel sauce by slow cooking sweetened condensed milk in the can.  All you do is place unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in a slow cooker, cover the cans with water, put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for five hours.  From what I can tell it works but cooking in the metal can always bothered me, and I never tried it.  Then I saw how you can do the same thing, but instead pour the milk into canning jars, cover with a lid and put it in the slow cooker or better yet, cook it in a pressure cooker.  I bought two cans of sweetened condensed milk at Aldi.  I poured the milk out into half pint canning jars.  Two cans of milk fit into three canning jars.  I put lids on the jars and put them on a trivet in the pressure cooker.  I added enough water so it came just under the lids.  I set the cooker on high for thirty five minutes and let the pressure release naturally.  When I opened the pressure cooker, I was amazed to see beautiful caramel dipping sauce for apples or anything you like to eat with caramel.  Just taking spoonfuls will work too.


It was very good, but I have very intense taste buds and I could taste a slight evaporated milk taste.  Maybe it was the Aldi product or maybe all sweetened condensed milk tastes that way.   My husband and my grandson's liked it, but I wasn't satisfied.

I decided to make my own sweetened condensed milk.  I used 1 cup of powdered milk (which also has that taste too), boiling water, sugar and a little melted butter.  I put it in the blender and mixed it until smooth.  Then I put that mixture in the small jars to cook in the pressure cooker.  It tasted better to me, but the texture was wrong.  Maybe I didn't blend it enough, maybe I blended it too much or it could be the butter.

Next I decided to try another brand of sweetened condensed milk.  It was between Borden and La Lechera.  I decided on La Lechera by Nestle.  Now I am very aware of the Nestle Boycott and of all of Nestle’s alleged crimes against humanity.  It has been going on for years.  Some of it has to do with baby formula but also about their business practices.  All the charges against them are most likely true, but to eliminate all products from a big company like Nestle is virtually impossible.  Nestle is also the parent company for thousands of other products we don't even associate with the Nestle company.  I have a feeling if we got down to the bottom line on most products, we would be disappointed.

The caramel I made from La Lechera was quite good.  I will be asking my family what they think, but I preferred it over the others I have made.  I will try the Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk by Borden next time, but as of now I have had my fill of caramel.  The Borden company probably has people protesting them too.  I don't really know or maybe Nestle owns Borden.  It's way too complicated for my brain.  The bottom line is that cooking any brand of sweetened condensed milk, which is basically sugar and milk, turns it into a nice caramel.