October 31, 2014

Last Leaves

Verona, Wisconsin, October 2014. The transition to winter nears.

A Closer Look (Part 10)

Bridgeport, Chicago, about 1914. This is Mr. Irene's maternal Grandmother, Anna. Anna's oldest child, Martha, looked a lot like Anna. (Here's the original post.)

The party is under way.

Suburban Chicago, October 1971. My grade-school friends have joined me in the Rec ROom.

Here I am before the party; here I ready the jack-o-lantern, and; here's a smaller party I hosted that year.

October 30, 2014

What ball? I'd rather play with your fuzzy slipper.

Suburban Chicago, June 1973. Gigi has found a spot in the living room.


Suburban Chicago, June 1974. Mom visits with my Godmother at my Godmother's home. I'm probably in the swimming pool.

"Sugar packets for use in coffee will still be available."

Mom will be happy to hear that.

Tonight's Dinner

A plate of sauerkraut and sausages regularly appeared at Lithuanian banquets, celebrations, and Sunday meals. The dish usually was bland (beyond the "spices" in the sausage), and it often was overwhelming sour. I liked the idea of this one-pot meal, but I decided to create a recipe featuring more liberal seasonings.

Here is the version Mom and I now make. It takes less than thirty minutes to assemble the dish. It's concurrently nostalgic and updated.

Sausages and Sauerkraut 

Note: Use fresh (uncooked), not smoked, sausage. Here in the Madison area, we buy "Fresh Polish Kielbasa" at Bavaria Sausage or "Kalberwurst" at Ruef's Meat Market in New Glarus.

16 ounces green cabbage (about one-half of a large head)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1-1/2 cups water (you will reserve 1 cup)

2 pounds packaged or bottled (not canned) sauerkraut

1 cup liquid from soaking mushrooms (from above)
One "Knorr Concentrated Chicken Stock" packet 
2 teaspoons tomato paste (no more)

4 ounces bacon, diced finely
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped fine
2 small carrots, peeled and grated
chopped, reconstituted porcini mushrooms (from above)

2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1/8 to 1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt (depending on the saltiness of the sausage)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder; dried marjoram; onion powder; Hungarian sweet paprika

1/4 cup Sweet Marsala or Madeira

3 pounds Polish Kielbasa or Kalberwurst (about 3 to 6 sausages)

1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
more brown sugar (optional: to taste)
1 to 2 tablespoons sweet pickle reliish (optional; to taste) 

The night before: Cut the cabbage into wedges. Using the metal blade of a food processor, chop the cabbage finely and toss into a sealable plastic bag. Microwave the red wine vinegar and brown sugar until the brown sugar dissolves. Mix the red wine vinegar/brown sugar into the cabbage and press the plastic bag so the mixture evenly coats the cabbage. Place the bag in the refrigerator overnight. 

The next day: Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a 2-cup, glass measuring cup and cover with the water. Microwave for 1 minute; then let mixture stand for thirty minutes to one hour. Drain the mushrooms and chop them. Strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter and reserve.

Place the sauerkraut in a large colander and rinse only once with cold water (too much rinsing will take the flavor away). Allow to drain. Place the drained sauerkraut and the undrained, marinated cabbage in a 7-quart slow cooker. Mix to combine.

In a 4-cup, glass measuring cup, mix together the mushroom-soaking liquid, the stock packet, and the tomato paste. Microwave on "High" for about 2 minutes, or until the stock packet and tomato paste dissolve. Set aside.

In a large sauteuse pan, sauté the bacon until it is browned. Drain the bacon pieces on several layers of paper towel, reserving about 2 tablespoons of the drippings. Reheat drippings in the same pan and add the olive oil. Sauté the chopped onion and carrots over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the reconstituted, chopped mushrooms.

Mix together the remaining brown sugar, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and dried herbs. Add to the sautéed onions and cook until the sugar dissolves and the spices are lightly toasted, about 30 seconds to one minute. Add the Marsala to the skillet and, stirring vigorously, scrape up any browned bits. Cook until the alcohol evaporates. Add the mushroom liquid/stock packet/tomato paste mixture. Cook until the liquid reduces by about one third, or for about five minutes.

Transfer vegetables to the slow cooker and mix. Place the sausages on top of and around the cabbage mixture and cook for about 4 to 6 hours on "High," or about 8 to 10 hours on "Low."

Just before serving, stir in the balsamic vinegar (and/or optional, additional brown sugar and sweet pickle relish). Serve with boiled potatoes dusted with freshly minced parsley. 

Serves 6 to 8

UPDATE: Recipe slightly tweeked to reflect modifications from last time we made it.

October 29, 2014

Dull Reunion

Near New Glarus, Wisconsin, October 19, 2014. Cloudy skies don't always dull the autumn colors.

Too Many Cookies

Glacier National Park, July 1973. We set out to take only short hike. We packed no sack lunches; we carried only a bag of Fig Newtons. We wandered for hours, and I ate most of the cookies.

Also: (1) I am holding a plastic bottle of baby oil. Foolish, fair-skinned teen! (2) I have a nose guard clipped to my sunglasses. Ha!

Parties can be tiring.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, January 1959. Only my Toronto Cousin has the energy to smile.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

October 27, 2014

Barbed Reunion

Near New Glarus, Wisconsin, October 19, 2014. The Swiss Browns come in for a closer look.

It wasn't a camera.

Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Illinois, October 1961. I pretended to carry a camera, but I only brought the View-Master.


Near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, about 1954. Here's the last photo from the duck series.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

October 26, 2014

October 25, 2014

Weekend Relaxation

New Glarus, Wisconsin, October 2014. Find a comfortable spot.

The Homecoming Float

Evanston, Illinois, October 1978. Mr. Irene's housemates prepare a float for the Homecoming Parade. "Bomaré" was the name Mr. Irene's friends used to designate their little group.

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The word "Bomaré" developed when one friend used it to describe people who "get stoned." The Easter Island figures became "Bomaré" mascots because they are ... stone heads. Mr. Irene (pictured here) had nothing to do with the name's origins or its iconography.

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The housemates march, wearing "Bomaré" heads, while Mr. Irene, on the float, sings to the melody of "Volare." (Were you expecting Dean Martin?)

Happy Homecoming Day!

Camp Randall, University of WisconsinMadison, October 2013. Warm up for the game.

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Camp Randall, University of WisconsinMadison, October 2013. The student section readies for "Jump Around."

Camp Randall, University of WisconsinMadison, October 2013. Bucky fires up the crowd.

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Camp Randall, University of WisconsinMadison, October 2013. Hey! It's only the second football game I've ever attended. So I brought my knitting.

October 24, 2014

October 22, 2014

Sunny-Afternoon Reunion

Verona, Wisconsin, October 19, 2014. The sunshine sharpens the brilliant colors.

Short-Hike Fashions

Redwood Regional Park, California, April 1968. Mom wears the knitted coat as she and Dad tour the area around San Francisco.

Platform Shoes

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, about 1949 or 1950. My Dad's twin sister, Jonė, entertains friends in the backyard.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

October 21, 2014

"A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody"

Near New Glarus, Wisconsin, October 19, 2014. We pulled over again to visit the Swiss Browns. This beauty belted out a note when we cooed to her.

A Good Mood

Glacier National Park, Montana, July 1972. Mom was in high spirits during that hike

"Both videos are set in Venice, but while the American singer rolled around sensually in a gondola, the nun sings in various landmarks wearing a habit."

Sister Cristina covers "Like a Virgin:"

Babos Receptai (Part 3)

My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, was a Russian aristocrat. Her father, Pavel, served as one of Tsar Nicholas II's regional governors (Pavel also was a friend of Tolstoy's, but I'll leave that story for another day). Pavel was working in Omsk when Tatjana was born. Later, he served in Tambov. When the Russian Revolution erupted, the Bolsheviks executed Pavel and (we believe) one of Tatjana's brothers.

Tatjana's aristocratic roots crept through many corners of her life. She was proud of her lineage, and she drew sharp lines about what sort of behavior was appropriate for descendants of the noble class. For instance, before I went on my first "date" (an afternoon, picnic outing to Brookfield Zoo), she observed that only a prostitute would hold hands with a man in public.

Tatjana also, like other Russian aristocrats of her era, admired and monkeyed French culture. She insisted, for example, that I learn the French language, and she fluidly quoted French novels and poetry. Tatjana often spoke of Catherine the Great's mastery of French culture. Many years after Tatjana died, I worked with a fellow whose grandparents (or possibly great-grandparents) had found exile in Paris after the Russian Revolution. His experience made me wonder whether Tatjana wouldn't have been happier living in France.

Tatjana's love of French culture, however, did not influence her cooking. French food was rarely on the menu. The only French item Tatjana sometimes made was Pâte à Choux. When Tatjana made choux pastry, she usually filled the puffs with Jell-O Cook & Serve Vanilla pudding (because instant pudding is for unaccomplished cooks). When she made the filling from scratch, she used this recipe: 

Cooked Cream for "Petit Schout"
                        and for Napoleon

Melt one stick of butter with 2-1/2-3 tablespoons flour. Gradually pout in 1 cup milk and 1 cup half-and-half. Cook, mixing constantly (like you would for a white sauce), until everything is heated through and cooked.

Beat together 3 egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar. Slowly mix this with the cooked cream mixture, and cook again, as you would ice cream, just until the mixture starts to show blisters. Then cool the mixture over ice, mixing well, and then adding vanilla, or orange rind, or almond extract.

[At the bottom of the page—in lighter colored ink—Tatjana added the recipe for the choux pastry:] 

Slowly heat 1 stick of butter and 2 spoonfuls (tablespoons) sour cream with 4-1/2 cups flour. Mix until the dough starts to hold together. Remove from heat and, mixing with your hands, divide the mixture into six pieces. Place in the refrigerator, then back at 400oF until the pieces are cooked through.

October 20, 2014

At-Rest Reunion

Belleville, Wisconsin, October 19, 2014. It's a quiet place.

Autumn Walk

Morton Arboretum, Lisle Illinois, October 1973. Mom still wears those pants.


Near Vilnius, Lithuania, about 1930. This boy is a relativelikely a nephewof Suzanne. The photo is in bad shape; I post because I love the use of the Lithuanian weaving as a wall hanging. The textile's design is in the family of "apple patterns." I presently am adapting a woven apple pattern for a sweater design.

Thanks to Suzanne's Granddaughter—my Kaunas Cousin—for making this photo available to us.

October 19, 2014

Peak Reunion

Verona, Wisconsin, October 18, 2014. That Autumn-Purple Ash really looks purple now.

Weekend Work

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Door County, Wisconsin, Autumn 1975. Dad uses a chainsaw to speed the chopping chores.

I remember that hat! It was a deerskin number Dad bought from Norm Thompson. (You've already seen the London Fog windbreaker.)

Related by Marriage: Army Buddies (Part 27)

Camp Irwin, Barstow, California, 1952. In this "Army Buddies" snapshot, the mess-hall chef great Mr. Irene's Dad outside his barracks.

ADDED: The chef was Mr. Irene's Dad's best friend in the Army. This is the fellow who taught Mr. Irene's Dad the basics of the English language Mr. Irene's Dad brought to the Thanksgiving table.

October 18, 2014

A Quick Ending

Glacier National Park, Montana, July 1972. A Long-Tailed Weasel snatches dinner.

A Family Visit, in Three Takes

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Verona, Wisconsin, October 2014. This group frequents the neighborhood.

Trail Dance

Glacier National Park, Montana, July 1972. Mom's enjoying the hike.

October 17, 2014

A Closer Look (Part 9)

Tambov, Russia, 1910 or 1911. This is my paternal Grandmother Tatjana's younger sister, Natasha. She was eight years old when she sat for this photo. Here's the original post.


Near Vilnius, Lithuania, about 1930. A relativeperhaps a nieceof Suzanne balances for the camera.

Thanks to Suzanne's Granddaughter—my Kaunas Cousin—for making this photo available to us.