Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Wilson Snipe

This is a very different Spring for us.  We usually have Spring floods from melting snow cover and rains.  Some parts of the United States had a lot of snow and moisture this winter, while other parts have drought conditions.  We are somewhere in between overall, but far less moisture than we are used to.  Because of the change in our landscape, we are seeing some birds we seldom see.  One of these is called a Wilson's Snipe.  I originally thought I was seeing an American Woodcock because of the long beak and other similar features.  I posted a photo on a nature group and was corrected.  I was told it was a Wilson's Snipe.  I didn't even know a snipe was a real bird.  When I grew up a snipe hunt was a term that was used to send someone on a wild goose chase for something impossible to find.  My husband remembers his older brother sending him on a few snipe hunts until eventually he caught on.  I should have known if a wild goose was real, so was a snipe.  The snipes blend in with the brown grass and mud in the marsh.  When I got out the binoculars, I noticed there were several poking their long beaks down in the mud.  I imagine they were finding insect larvae and worms.  It was nice to learn something new this year.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Slow Cooker Cheesy Bacon Potatoes with Helpful Hints

The recipe I am posting today is for potatoes made in the slow cooker.  These potatoes can be used as a side dish or with some added ham or vegetables as a main dish.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Bacon Potatoes

6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 pounds red potatoes, cubed*
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg. powdered ranch dressing mix

Line the slow cooker with aluminum foil** and spray with cooking spray.  Leave enough foil to fold over the top.

Put a layer of potatoes evenly on the foil, top with 1/3 cup cheese, sprinkle with some ranch seasoning and bacon.  Repeat this two times more, leaving 1/2 cup of cheese for later.

Fold the foil over the potatoes and cook for 8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.
Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and put the cover back on for a couple minutes until the cheese melts.

* I imagine southern style frozen hash browns would work for this step and the cooking time would be a lot less.  I actually needed more cooking time.  I used the 3 to 4 hours on high method, and my potatoes were still slightly crunchy.  They were very firm raw red potatoes and needed extra time.

My method for making the cubes was using one of my favorite gadgets.  It is the Vidalia Chop Wizard.

Slice the washed red potatoes into 1/2 inch slices.

Place slice on vidalia using the larger insert.

Results are uniform cubes of raw potato made in minutes.

**The next hint I have is for lining the slow cooker.  For most things I use the liner bags.  It saves washing the baked on food from the slow cooker.

However, this recipe said to line the slow cooker with foil, so that is what I did.  A good trick for lining a pan with foil is to first turn the pan upside down and form the foil around it.  It works for a crock pot insert or a cake pan.  The hard part about lining a pan with foil is to get the corners to fit without ripping the foil.  This eliminates that problem.

I'm showing this with a cake pan, but it also works for a crock pot.

Turn pan upside down and form the foil around the pan.

Take the foil off the pan, turn over and it fits perfectly even in the corners.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Lost Ring

Happy Easter to all.  For some of you this is a very important religious holiday.  For others it is all about the Easter Bunny.  Whatever is important to you, I wish you a meaningful day.

This weekend was meaningful to me in a way I didn't expect.  On Good Friday we were busy.  We went to several grocery stores to pick up items for our family brunch.  We usually go out to eat with my dad on Fridays, so we took him on our shopping trip.  We didn't go to our usual places, but decided to try Kentucky Fried Chicken because basically it was the only game in town.  Well, not really, but it was convenient.  It wasn't a complete success for dad, but my husband and I liked it for a change. 

When we arrived home with the groceries, we put them away and then my husband went outside to split some logs.  He was outside for several hours.  That evening as we were sitting watching TV, my husband noticed he was missing his wedding ring.

He has been wearing this ring since 8/24/68.

I couldn't believe it.  Some days we don't leave the house, but that day we were in several places.  It was almost dark when he discovered it, so there was no looking around the yard.  I did look in the car and on the garage floor, but nothing showed up.  The next morning, we didn't have time to look.  We were having brunch with our daughters, their families and my daughter's mother and father in law.  Again after we arrived home, my husband went outside to work a little.  He barely looked for the ring because it could have been in the trash bag at KFC, or it could have been in the grocery store. 

I went about my business.  At some point in the afternoon, I went out to feed the birds and retrieve the camera card from the trail camera.  As I was walking in the house, Mike was raking around the bushes near the house.  He held up his hand and there was his ring on the second finger of his left hand.  He quietly said "I found it".  That's his personality.  I would have jumped up and down and ran to show him.  He figured I would notice eventually. 

He had remembered loading the wheelbarrow with debris.  Some of the big pieces were put in the burning barrel, but the excess got dumped at the edge of hill going down to the marsh.  To avoid erosion, we put excess debris and leaves on the hill.

This is the pile of leaves and small branches that get dumped on the hill.

He looked in the burning barrel but didn't see the ring.  Then he pushed the wheelbarrow to the the dumping spot.   He looked down and low and behold.  THE RING!  He couldn't believe his eyes, and I couldn't believe he found it. 

While cleaning up after splitting wood, he reached into his pocket to get out his knife.  Since his phone was on his belt, getting into the pocket was a tight squeeze.  This may have caused the ring to slip off and fall off without him noticing.   Then later while raking up the debris, the ring ended up in the wheelbarrow and dumped on the hill.  Hopefully that will never happen again.  He lost another ring his mom bought him in Green Lake five or six years ago.  That ring was never found, we thought this one was gone forever as well.

On a superficial note, a second miracle occurred for us yesterday.  We were born and raised in Wisconsin so it is logical that we are Wisconsin Badger sport fans.  Last night, Wisconsin beat undefeated Kentucky in the semifinal NCAA Men's Basketball game allowing them to play Duke for the National Championship.  It was a good day.