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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Country Cousin

Mom...



Hi Folks!

Mother’s Day is Sunday. Let’s hope for a fine day, so Dad can cook on the grill and keep the mess outside. If not, maybe breakfast out would be a good way to start the day. Mom might appreciate that more than breakfast in bed, considering what generally happens in the kitchen when Dad and kiddies make a production breakfast.

Anyway, Moms, have a happy one. Hope your family pampers you no end.

MY MOM

Feel sorry sometimes for the youngsters of today, who don’t know what it was like to have a Mom who was always there at the end of the day.

My generation is probably the last one in which most kids had stay-at-home moms. Whether by choice or by financial necessity, in this generation, most Moms go off to work each day. Some beat their kids home from school and some do not. That’s not all bad, perhaps. Kids on their own might learn to be more self reliant and independent, but I’d rather have Mom at home.

When we had a bad day at school, she was there. Sometimes she sympathized, sometimes she offered good advice, sometimes she scolded. But she was there, and her arms were comforting. She laughed at our jokes, praised our good grades, and pretended to be amazed at whatever information we had gleaned that day about the big, wonderful world we lived in.

Somehow Mom always knew if we were lying, so mostly we just admitted whatever we were guilty of and got it over with. She didn’t swear, so we didn’t. She was generous, so we learned the importance of sharing. We said our prayers at night and went to church on Sunday, because she wanted us to.

When we were bored, Mom always found something for us to do. Now, it usually wasn’t something fun. It was wash the dishes, wash the baseboards, weed the garden, wash the windows, hang the laundry, peel potatoes...whatever. Even very small kids can do some of those jobs, and we did. Once we were assigned a task, we had to do it, and that was that. So we didn’t often complain of being bored, even before television arrived at our house. The trick was to get our job done and then get outside (or at least out of sight) before she found some other task to assign.

Mom said idle hands were the devil’s workshop, and she believed it, but she found time to have fun with us too.

She’d play hide and seek with us in the house. Being tiny, she could hide in some pretty strange places, and did.

She’d move all the chairs out of our long kitchen to scrub and wax its tile floor. Then, when the floor was dry, she’d give us pieces of wax paper to slide around on before we all helped put the furniture back. She said we were helping shine the floor, and maybe that was true. I think now she just loved to see us having fun.

She’d play guessing games with us on car trips, and sometimes she could get Dad to join the fun.

Mom raised the prettiest flowers in the neighborhood. Sometimes she’d make pancakes for a whole batch of friends who just happened to be there at meal time.

She curled our hair, shined out shoes, pressed our clothes, kissed our wounds, and fussed over us when we were sick. She even fussed when we weren’t really sick, but just hadn’t studied enough for the test our teacher had promised. Think she knew when we were faking, but she fussed anyway. That can bring on a real guilt trip, and she knew that too.

We knew that whatever we did, we count on Mom’s love. And because she loved us, we wanted to live up to her high expectations. Isn’t that about the best thing a Mom can do for her kids?

Maybe it’s never too late to say it: Thank you Mom, for being you. And thank you for being there when we needed you.

GOD MADE MOMS

Some years ago a second grade teacher led a discussion about why and how God made mothers, and what He made them of.

Answers to why He made them included: She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is; mostly to clean the house, and to help us out of there when we were getting born.

As to how He made Moms, and what He made them of, there were some pretty innovative answers, and some mundane ones.

One youngster felt “He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.” Another decided Mom was made of “magic, plus super powers and a lot of string,” and still another figured, “God made my Mom just like he made me. He just used bigger parts.”

At least one mom would have been pretty much bursting at the seams pleased. Her youngster thought mothers were made “out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world,” but then added, “and with one dab of mean.”

The kids knew there were differences between Moms and Dads. Moms can talk to teachers without scaring them; Dads are taller and stronger, but Moms have all the real power ‘cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend’s house; Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

Those kids did have some ideas for how Mom could be improved, some complimentary, most not. For example:

On the inside she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.

Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.

She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.

I’d make my Mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.

I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

GROWIN’ THINGS

Friend Bill’s garden is always beautiful, and early. His onions are already up two inches.

He passed along a tip for planting seeds easily, and in nice straight lines that we all might find helpful.

Read your seed packet instructions and decide how far apart the seeds need to be.

Prepare your soil and rake it smooth. Then make shallow trenches the depth you want your seeds to be, and as far apart as the package prescribes.

Cut newspapers into strips, and on those strips, at the proper distances, put a dab of thick flour and water paste. Into each dab put a seed. You might want to put them closer than recommended and then thin out the weaker plants later. That’s up to you, and how confident you are that all the seeds will germinate.

Anyway, you then lay the strips into the prepared rows, cover with the proper amount of soil, give the area a nice slow watering, and you’re done.

ON THE SOAP BOX

VOTERS LOSE IN WISCONSIN


The primary election is over, and in June there will be a replay of the 2010 elections - Gov. Scott Walker against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Gov. Walker alone garnered 595,018 votes, only 58,818 fewer than all five of his opponents put together, and only 38,898 fewer than all four candidates on the Democratic party primary ballot, including that party’s winner - Barrett.

But the recall elections are costing Wisconsin taxpayers thousands and thousands of dollars, and all because some Wisconsinites aren’t happy with the way the last elections came out.

Gov. Walker has done exactly what he promised to do, and that is the problem. So there’s a recall. Suppose if by some fluke Tom Barrett is successful this time around, those who like what Walker and his supporters have done can just go ahead and have another recall.

One sentiment has been coming out more and more often - regardless of the outcome of this recall attempt, Wisconsin needs a constitutional change to insure there will never be a repeat of this mockery of the whole elective process.

As a stranger commented to me recently, “This whole thing cheapens my vote. Some people didn’t like the way the last election came out, so they’re throwing the results away. That is simply not right.”

He said, and Yours Truly heartily agrees, that two Constitutional changes are needed.

First, persons elected to serve in the Senate or Assembly must be present when those bodies are in session or have an excellent reason for not being there...like they’re dead. If they deliberately skip the responsibilities of the office they were elected to they should either be booted out of office at once, or be subject to recall. And pay for times when they skip should definitely be withheld.

Second, recall elections of state or local officials can be held only for specific offenses, for example real dereliction of duty (such as deliberately skipping sessions), violating ethics laws, or committing a felony.

If we as a state fail to do that, we will be subject from this day forward to a series of recall elections when ever an elected official takes unpopular actions. We might as well then have government by referendum.

We could just skip the legislature as a decision-making body and all go to the polls to vote on whatever bills were introduced during the preceding week.

Then, perhaps we could also vote each week on whether or not the governor should stay in office or be replaced.

That might not be a bad idea, except that hardly anyone would understand the full implications of what they were voting for. Who among us is going to read several hundred pages of legalese every week - on our own time - so we can be informed voters? Our legislators are paid to do it, and it’s a pretty good bet they too often turn that responsibility over to their hired help!

Mob rule is never good. Our forefathers chose to make our nation a Republic and not a true Democracy because representative government like ours works better. We need to keep in touch with our legislators, let them know if we’re pleased or unpleased, but once the voters have spoken, they have spoken and agree or not, we live with their choices until the next election.

COOKIN’ TIME

EASY COOKED CHICKEN

If you want to prepare a dish that calls for leftover cooked chicken but happen to be fresh out, here’s a quick, easy and somewhat foolproof way to cook chicken breast in the microwave. All you need besides three skinless, boneless chicken breasts are a microwave safe baking dish or bowl with a lid, 1/2 cup chicken broth broth, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and if desired a splash of lemon juice and a sprinkling of pepper. Mix the broth, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Set three raw boneless chicken breasts in the bowl with the thickest parts facing the outside. Cover with the lid, but leave one corner ajar for ventilation. Cook on medium power for six minutes per pound. Let sit for a few minutes, then take out of the microwave. Be careful not to let the steam come toward you when you remove the lid. The chicken is done if the juice doesn’t run pink when pierced with a fork. If you’re not certain, use a meat thermometer to be sure the center of the largest breast is at least 165 degrees.

ENCHILADA CASSEROLE

This South of the Border casserole isn’t very spicy unless you dash on some hot sauce or hot salsa after it’s cooked, but it has a nice Mexican flavor. Serve with sour cream, salsa, shredded lettuce, sliced green onions, and perhaps some avocado slices. Easy enough for Dad and kids to make while Mom enjoys her day. Please remember to wash up the dishes afterwards.

1 (14 ounce) can green enchilada sauce

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 (6 ounce) can chopped green chilies (not jalepenos, but

mild green Hatch chilies)

1 large cooked chicken breast, chopped or 1 cup chopped

leftover chicken or turkey

8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

10 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9x12 baking dish, preferably glass, with cooking spray. Mix first three ingredients in a bowl. Spoon enough of this mixture to coat the bottom of the baking dish. Then add in layers: tortillas, torn in pieces; chicken; 1/2 of the cheese; 1/2 of the sauce, more tortillas, rest of sauce, rest of cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes until the middle is bubbly and the cheese on top is turning brown. It’s already cooked, just has to get heated through enough to melt the cheese.

SPECIAL STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

Make Mom proud with this gorgeous (and delicious cake) for Mother’s Day or any other day. Strawberry season is coming! If you don’t want to work this hard, use a white cake mix and add a teaspoon of lemon extract. Frost the cake with thawed whipped topping for a total shortcut. If the berries aren’t very sweet, slice them ahead of time, sprinkle on half a cup or so of sugar and let them sit until it’s time to assemble the cake. You could bake this in a 9x12 cake pan for a pot luck offering.

Non-stick vegetable spray, for coating the pans

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract

3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 pints fresh strawberries

1/2 cup sugar (optional)

1 recipe whipped cream frosting

WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING

1 teaspoon gelatin

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly coat two (9-inch) cake pans with nonstick vegetable spray. It’s easier to remove cake layers if you line the bottoms with a circle of baking parchment. Into a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, 3 times. In a small saucepan, bring the milk and butter to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and lemon extracts. In separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until pale yellow, and fluffy, and doubled in volume. While still beating, drizzle in the hot milk mixture. Fold in the flour mixture. Spread the batter in the prepared pans and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden, the center springs back when lightly pressed, and a cake tester comes out clean. Set the pans on a rack to cool. Run the tip of a knife around the edges of the cakes to loosen them, and turn them out of the pans.

Whipped Cream Frosting: In a medium bowl, mix together the gelatin and 1/4 cup of the cream. Let rest for 5 minutes to soften, then place the bowl over barely simmering water until the gelatin has completely dissolved. Remove the bowl from the heat and let cool to tepid. In the meantime, in a mixing bowl, whip the cream until slightly thickened. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and whip to the consistency of shaving cream. Fold 1/2 cup of the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture, then fold in the rest.

Now, or before you start the cake, wash and dry the strawberries. Pick out the 12 best. Stem and slice the rest. If you’re using sugared berries, lay half of the sliced berries over one cake, pour on half the juice from the berries, then spread a 1/2-inch layer of whipped cream on top. Place the second cake over the first. Pour on the remainder of the juice and spread out the remainder of the berries across the top. Frost the entire cake with the remaining whipped cream. Top with the 12 whole berries. Serve proudly.

Thought for the week: Oliver Wendell Holmes said it well: “Youth fades; love droops, the leaves of friendship fall. A mother’s secret hope outlives them all...” An unknown philosopher advised, “We only have one Mom, one Mommy, one Mother in this World, just as we only have one life. Don’t wait for tomorrow to tell Mom you love her. Do it now.” Good advice. Love you, Mom!

COUNTRY COUSIN


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