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

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Hi Folks!

October has ended, and the winds of November have come howling in, downing trees and power lines in some parts of TIMESland. Apparently a mild inland remnant of the hurricane that devastated much of the eastern seaboard earlier this week. There were waves on the Menominee River on Tuesday. Didn’t check the Bay, but am told that in some areas - probably somewhere less sane than TIMESland, people were surfing on our little thumb of Lake Michigan.

Storms notwithstanding, this weekend, when we turn the clocks back at 2 a.m. Sunday morning, we get back the hour we lost last spring. Oh, happy day!

What will you do with your extra hour?

WONDERING

Can’t help but wonder how many of our allies around the world will come forward with offers to help the devastated American states. Some folks who call themselves Americans seem to spend a great deal of time apologizing for our nation’s prosperity and leadership in the world. They seem to forget how hard our businessmen have worked to put us in the position we have enjoyed for two centuries, and often and how generously we have come forward to help less fortunate nations.

Now we’re up to our national armpits in debt, facing continued widespread unemployment, and hit with what many are calling America’s worst storm of the century. We may find out who our friends are. And we may need them!

FOR EVERYTHING A REASON?

Why did it happen?

According to a recent study detailed online in the October edition of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, a team of psychology researchers at Boston University (BU) asked chemists, geologists and physicists from major universities such as Harvard, MIT and Yale University to evaluate explanations for different natural phenomena.

Answers they got seem to indicate that even scientists instinctively seek an intentional purpose for what supposedly should be purely accidental relationships.

The study said statements often included purpose-based (teleological) explanations such as “Trees produce oxygen so that animals can breathe,” or “The Earth has an ozone layer in order to protect it from UV light.”

If there is no plan to the Universe, if there is no God, then the fact that animals breathe the oxygen produced by trees is purely accidental, or perhaps the animals somehow came into being because those trees produced the oxygen. Couldn’t possibly have been that a thinking, caring Supreme Being planned this old world so things usually fit nicely together!

“Scientists who were not under time pressure tended to accurately reject these purpose-based explanations,” the report says. “Meanwhile, scientists who were instructed to assess the statements quickly were more likely to endorse these teleological explanations, even though they are scientifically unwarranted.”

At least one of the researchers concluded, “It seems that our minds may be naturally more geared to religion than science.”

The team says their results hint at an underlying belief in meaning behind natural phenomena that persists from early development. “In light of Hurricane Sandy,” a news report states, “the study seems to build on previous research suggesting that the desire to turn to God for an explanation for disaster is a widespread human urge. A poll last year found that 44 percent of Americans think that natural disasters are or could be a sign from God.”

Now, that’s something to think about! Is He trying to tell us something?

WINDOW CHORES

If the weather relents, many of us still face that onerous Autumn chore of taking down screens and putting up storm windows, and that unfortunately involves washing windows if we want any light to come through. May be forced to tackle that task before winter, if it ever warms up again. If not, well, we procrastinators always can find a good excuse!

Whatever the weather though, don’t clean windows when the sun is shining directly on them.

There are numerous ways to make non-polluting and non-noxious homemade window cleaners. One of them is to mix one cup rubbing alcohol, one cup water, and one tablespoon vinegar. To spruce it up, add a few drops of your favorite perfume. Adding a little baking soda will make windows shine. Apply from a bucket or spray bottle, then wipe off with a soft, lint free cloth, hopefully parts of an old cotton T-shirt, or with well crumpled old newspapers, which will buff windows to a shine.

When washing windows and patio doors inside and out, wipe vertically on the outside and horizontally on the inside, or vice versa, so you’ll know which side the streaks are on.

Straight vinegar will remove decals and sticky spots from windows and other glass, and that includes car windows and bumpers. Possibly quite useful information for many of us once the Nov. 6 elections are over.

Another home made window cleaning solution is four cups of water to a half cup hydrogen peroxide. Cleans and disinfects glass and other surfaces, and helps to kill some visible bugs as well.

If you do make up your own window cleaning solution, mark the containers you use very clearly. Ammonia, for example, must never ever be mixed with bleach. Tried that once. Added dishwashing soap with ammonia to a tub full of strong bleach solution. Not a good plan at all. Scrubbed and choked for a bit, and then almost didn’t make it outside! Quit tasting that smell after about the third day.

There are some differences in the homemade cleaners and how they react with your home’s water supply, degree of hardness and such. You may need to try several recipes until you find one that works well for you. If you try a cleaner and end up with filmy or streaky windows try adding a little dish soap. Sometimes this small adjustment will make all the difference. Once you find the right formula you won’t want to go back to anything else.

SAVING FOOD DOLLARS

In today’s world, we’re all trying to find whatever ways we can to pinch pennies and stretch dollars.

Tawra Kellam editor of “LivingOnADime.com” says she does something that most people think they can’t do today. Says she feeds her family of 6 for $400 a month. Most people say that’s an impossible feat but what’s even more impressive is that she does it without using coupons.

How? First, Kellam says, “I use what I have. If I don’t have milk in the house, I don’t make a special trip to the store to buy it. The kids won’t die from malnutrition if they miss drinking milk for a day or two. If I’m out of bread, I’ll make some cornbread, biscuits or muffins. If I’m out of fresh veggies, I use canned or frozen vegetables instead... Shop for food two or three times a month and that’s it. ”

So she saves money on gasoline too, by cutting down on single-purpose trips to the store.

Next she advises, “Shop the clearance sections. My store marks things down a few days before the ‘sell by’ date.” Most items, including milk, stay fresh for at least a week after that. Even milk can be frozen. Great part is that milk stays fresh for 1 week after it’s opened. Throw several in the freezer and don’t make a special trip for milk. Just thaw, shake and serve.”

She says it is possible to save on meat too, by buying only when it’s on sale or on clearance. Watch for mark downs. “If it’s not on sale, we don’t eat it,” Kellam says. ”You can get some great unadvertised deals just by watching the meat counter’s clearance items. I have found 5 pound rolls of hamburger for $2.95 each after a holiday weekend... I can get soup bones for under $2 with enough meat on them to make a great vegetable stew for the entire family! Whenever a meat item is on sale, stock up the fridge and freezer.”

Kellam said she regularly asks when things will go on sale or be marked down. By asking, she found out that bananas, milk and meat at her store are marked down each morning. She tries to shop there in the morning to get the best deals. She says when they lived in another state, the store marked things down in the evening so that’s when they went shopping.

She does limit what her kids eat, to some extent. “Most parents give their kids way too much milk, juice and soda,” Kellam says. Hers get soda only on special occasions. They get milk with their cereal. They don’t sip on milk or juice all day long. They drink water and are just fine with it. For snacks, they eat a piece of string cheese, fruit or one or two cookies. She says parents should stop letting kids just “graze” on chips and other snack food all day. Her kids get one small “bowl” of chips a day and that’s it, treat wise. Better for them, and better for the budget.

FOOD POLICE

Speaking of limiting what kids eat, thanks to a new set of federal restrictions strongly endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama’s fitness program, our school lunch programs are doing a lot of that this year.

We all know the Food Police are putting pressure on chain restaurants to cut the size of their portions and eliminate fats from their offerings. Unfortunately, those who write the rules won’t admit what some of us already know - it’s carbs, not fats, that make most of us fat. But this isn’t a one size fits all world. There are exceptions to every rule.

There has been much in the news lately of kids all across Wisconsin, and in fact all across the nation, staging protests about the shortage of real, satisfying food served to them at their school’s noon hot lunch program. They simply do not get enough nourishment to last until they get home again.

No protests in TIMESland, but lots of comments.

There’s even a cartoon circulating. Shows a mother in China urging her son to eat up his dinner, with a reminder about all the starving kids in America. Not sure if that one is really about the new Food Police or a reflection on our nation’s sad economic condition. But anyway, it sure is a switch from the old days!

The cafeteria cutbacks are not by choice. It’s not money, and there’s no pending famine except by Federal decree.

Kids are going away from hot lunch hungry because of rules forced on the schools by the Food Police in Washington, DC, upheld by their cohorts in Madison. The new federal guidelines are part of the push by people like Michelle Obama and her friends, to get kids all across the country to slim down. An admirable goal, perhaps, for kids who are chubby. But not all kids are, and dealing with that problem really should be up to their parents. Heavy kids who are determined will eat before, after and during school anyway.

A Crivitz mother told us her skinny hypoglycemic 8-year-old came home crying shortly after school started this fall. He was hungry. So hungry he was getting sick. Although they are usually off limits for him before meals because his body doesn’t handle carbs well, Mom offered a cookie to hold him over until dinner. “No, Mom,” he protested. “I want food! real food!” Now she sends a protein-rich lunch to school with him to supplement food from the cafeteria. She wonders, will the time come that kids are forbidden to bring their own lunches to school?

The new federal guidelines put severe limits on amounts of various food groups, including protein, where they allow 10 to 12 grams a week, only the equivalent of a small egg or two slices of cheese a day for high school students.

Coleman School Board recently directed a letter to Congressman Reid Ribble asking him to see if there’s anything he can do about the food limits. Participation in their hot lunch program has dropped to half what it was last year, and Food Service Director Paula Dembroski is not happy about it. She loves serving good food to the kids, and would be delighted to give them all they want to eat. She has no problem with requirements to offer healthy foods, but disagrees sending kids away hungry.

Many students have started carrying lunches, either in place of the school lunch or to supplement it. Meanwhile, cost of the school lunches hasn’t gone down, but a lot of food is being thrown away because the hot lunch programs must try to force kids to eat food they don’t like or lose their federal funding.

The Federal Food Police forget this is not a one size fits all world. Not all kids are overweight. (Not all adults either, but we’re not talking about them here.) Some kids are wiry and active. Their bodies burn up every calorie they can get because they’re growing and moving so fast. Like adults, some are sensitive to carbs, and some to fats. Some kids here in the north go outside to play in the snow before, during and after school. That burns a lot more calories than lolling in the sun. But calorie and fat restrictions are the same all over the country. The Food Police apparently never thought about that!

Some kids here in TIMESland spend up to an hour on the bus before and after school. After that long trip to school they may have sports practice or after school jobs. There is no food shortage in this country. If there were, the restrictions would be understandable. But as things stand, if our government is going to provide school lunches they should allow the schools to serve enough food to get hungry kids through the day.

COOKIN’’ TIME

When the cold winds blow, it’s time to enjoy some real comfort food. Today’s recipes are exactly that!

PUMPKIN PIE DIP

Too easy. For a low carb version, use sugar free pudding mix and whipped topping, or whip 8 ounces real cream with a packet artificial sweetener and a teaspoon of vanilla.

1 can pumpkin

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 box vanilla pudding mix, dry

8 ounces frozen whipped topping

1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together. Chill several hours before serving and then sprinkle additional cinnamon on top. Serve with apple slices, vanilla wafers, gingersnaps, graham crackers, etc.

PETER PETER PUMPKIN PIE

Remember the old nursery rhyme, “Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, had a wife and couldn’t keep her. Put her in a Pumpkin shell, and there he kept her very well.” Well, in this case, it isn’t the wife, but the pie that goes inside the pumpkin. If you want to try this version of a pie that does not require a flour crust, now’s the time, when fresh pumpkins are still available. Do try to get a good pie pumpkin with dark orange flesh rather than a pale yellow cow pumpkin. They keep well in a cool corner of the basement.

According to Frugal Gourmet Jeff Smith, this “pie” was a favorite of George Washington. Certainly not today’s idea of a Pumpkin Pie, but sounds very worth making, especially as a new tradition for Thanksgiving, if there are still whole pumpkins around. Vary the spices to suit your taste. Probably was popular with the early settlers because it did not require making a pie shell, and when you were done you fed the dish it was cooked in to the chickens or pigs or whatever other critter might be hanging around the woods.

1 pumpkin, 5 to 7 pounds

6 whole eggs

2 cups whipping cream

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

2 tablespoons butter

Cut the lid off the pumpkin, just as you would to make a jack-o-lantern. Remove the seeds and stringy material. Save the seeds for toasting later. Mix all the remaining ingredients except the butter and pour it into the pumpkin. Put the butter on top. Put the pumpkin lid back on, and set the whole thing in a baking pan, just in case. bake at 350 degrees for an hour and a half, or until the mixture inside the pumpkin has set like a custard. Serve from the pumpkin, scraping some of the meat from the pumpkin with each serving.

Thought for the week: Lord, help us as a nation on Tuesday, Nov. 6 to make the choices pleasing to You. Help us to search our hearts, our heads and our consciences. Help us put right and wrong ahead of personal preferences. You have given us a wonderful land and guided our forefathers to put together laws that set the world an example for freedom, peace and prosperity. Help us to hold on to that promise, to make this once again a land You can be proud of. Amen.

COUNTRY COUSIN


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