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Country Cousin

Advent...

Hi Folks!

What strange weather we’ve been having for late November and early December. Certainly the drought has ended. Despite the bitter cold earlier, and then the one snowfall, we’ve had so much warm rain that some poor confused lawns are struggling to turn green again, despite surroundings of Christmas lights. Good thing it’s turned a bit colder now or the trees would start budding and then we’d be in real trouble when Spring really gets here.

ADVENT

Most of us are so busy scurrying around preparing our homes for Christmas that we forget to prepare our hearts. In the old days, the Christmas decorations did not go up until after noon on Dec. 24, and the tree often did not come into the house at all until after the little ones were in bed. They were told that Santa brought it.

Special prayers and penances were offered through Advent, which starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, in this case, Dec. 2, so we are already going into the second week.

Even though Advent has started, it’s still not too late to add the special touch of an Advent wreath to your family’s preparations for Christmas.

Make or buy a wreath made of evergreen boughs, and add four candles and candle holders. There should be three purple candles and one that is rose colored, but that is not mandatory. If your family cannot gather around the dinner table for the candle lighting every night during Advent, try to do it at least every Sunday night.

Ask God to bless the advent wreath and the family that prays around it. By the way, if you are alone there’s no rule against praying for yourself, and possibly adding some prayers for loved ones who are far away, even if they have passed away. God’s love is not bounded by life or death, you know.

Anyway, by tradition in many countries, during the first week of Advent one of the purple candles is lit. On the second Sunday and during the week that follows, light the first and second purple candles (that would be on Sunday, Dec. 9), and on Dec. 16 the first, second and third purple candles are lit. Then, on the last Sunday before Christmas, light the rose colored candle and all the purple ones. Some families add a fifth candle, white, and light that on Christmas along with the other four. Traditionally, the youngest child in the family gets to light the candles, unless that child is too young. It’s a nice touch to have religious Christmas music playing in the background.

Once the candles are lit, bow your heads and offer some prayers or Biblical readings of your own, or read these verses from Isiah:

“The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.....

“For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace...

“His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: He shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

There are other ways to make an Advent wreath part of your Christmas observances, but this seems to work out well.

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING

While spiritual preparations for Christmas are important, in the real world we do need to buy gifts, bake cookies, and decorate the house.

If your gift list includes someone who has everything, how about looking into something that nobody else sells?

Talking here about craft items created by local artisans.

There’s to be a craft show at Evergreen Ballroom, on Hwy. 180, eight miles north of Marinette, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8. Hand crafted items will be offered for sale, and many of the artists will demonstrate their techniques, according to friend Lori Wickman, who has been promoting the show.

She says there will be hand made and individually designed jewelry, wooden furniture, bead work, wood Intarsia (3D wooden puzzles), a blown glass glass creations made on the spot, quilts, purses, ornaments and more.

ON THE SOAP BOX

POLITICALLY CORRECT


The November elections are over, but the bad taste brought on by some of the campaign tactics, rhetoric and flagrant lies lingers on.

Meanwhile, we are all prohibited from saying what we would really like to say by today’s double standard requirements for political correctness.

Heard there is an annual contest at Texas A&M University calling for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term. This year’s term was “political correctness.”

The winning definition?

“Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of sh** from the clean end.”

REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR

Friday, Dec. 7 marks the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in what then was the territory of Hawaii. That fatal attack drew America into the fighting that was World War II.

The fervor sparked by World War II generated many patriotic war songs that were played over and over on juke boxes and radio stations across the land. Talk about politically incorrect! Can’t even say the words to my childhood favorite anymore - “We’re gonna have to slap...And Uncle Sam’s the guy who can do it!” On the flip side of that record was the Carson Robison version of “Remember Pearl Harbor,” which I always thought was the only version until I searched online for the words, and found that the most popular was not the one I knew and loved as a child.

The Robison version includes the words, “...day and night, pray and fight, carry on!” If anyone remembers the rest of the lyrics, would love to have them. Have not been able to find them.

Words to the most popular “Remember Pearl Harbor,” by Don Reid and Sammy Kaye, are entirely different.

That song goes:

“The Song History - in every century, records an act that lives forevermore. We’ll recall - as into line we fall, the thing that happened on Hawaii’s shore.

“Let’s REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR -, As we go to meet the foe -, Let’s REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR, As we did the Alamo.

“We will always remember -, how they died for liberty, Let’s REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR, and go on to victory.”

Don’t recall ever hearing that version. Maybe I did and just didn’t like it. Other World War II songs that occasionally still play in my head are one about “Barnacle Bill the Sailor,” “Over There,” “Bell Bottom Trousers,” “White Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” There’s also something about,”Dan, Dan the Sailor Man.”

MEMORY LANE

As we get older, the computer that occupies the space atop our shoulders and between our ears all too often gets clogged with so much information that bits and pieces get pushed out. Heard from friend Maggie that a preacher who recently came to call suggested that at her age she should be thinking of the hereafter.

She assured him she does that all the time. “No matter where I am, in the parlor, upstairs, in the kitchen, or down in the basement, I ask myself, ‘Now, what am I here after?’”

RED SEA

Remember the plagues God sent to the Egyptians when Moses was trying to convince Pharaoh to let his people go? One was turning the Nile River to blood.

Read recently about an algae bloom that turned the water in beaches around Sidney, Australia blood red, scaring bathers out of the water in droves.

Eye witnesses said the blood red waters looked like a scene from a horror movie, and photos on the web certainly backed up that comparison.

Turns out the algae is non-toxic, but can cause skin irritation. It lasted less than a full day but reportedly left a bit of a stench after the algae died off.

Simply must ask: “Is someone trying to lead his people out of Australia?”

Just kidding!

CITING SOURCES

Wrote last week about the Pilgrims and Puritans, the earliest European immigrants to the North American continent other than possibly the Vikings. Got that information from various sources, since none of it is available first hand any more.

Was criticized by a reader for taking part of that report directly from Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, and do owe everyone an apology for failing to go back and put quotation marks around that paragraph. However, the information in that paragraph and other parts of the report were verified by checking several other sources before it was put into the column.

COOKIN’ TIME

Sugar ‘n’ spice and everything nice is very much what Christmas cooking is about.

SPECULATUS

These spicy cutout cookies, a somewhat healthy treat, are intended to celebrate St. Nicholas Day, which is on December 6. Kiddies are supposed to set out shoes the night before, so St. Nicholas can fill them with treats. These healthy cookies can be made now, and they’ll still be good for Christmas. They should be cut out and in the form of the good bishop, St. Nicholas. Frosting is optional. If you don’t have a proper cookie cutter shaped like a bishop, you could cut around a cardboard cutout with a butter knife. Press a bit of dough through a garlic press to make a curly beard. That beard idea works for Santa Claus cookies too. The cookies can come out soft and chewy or marvelously crisp. The difference is a minute or two more or less in the oven. Haven’t tasted this version, but the person who supplied the recipe says they are not overly spicy, despite the quantities used. But they are pretty brown even before they start baking, so it’s hard to tell when they’re getting done. If you don’t want to use the Sugar Twin, just use a whole cup of brown sugar. You really do need an electric mixer to make these, unless you have incredibly strong arms.

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup Brown Sugar Twin

1/2 cup molasses

4 eggs

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 cups white whole wheat flour

4 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons nutmeg

2 teaspoons ginger

2 teaspoons cloves

Cream butter and Sugar Twin plus molasses together for about 5 minutes or until light and fully combined. Add eggs and continue to beat hard until mixture is creamy again. Add all the rest of the ingredients, then mix until combined. You may need to add another half cup or more of flour at this point, mixing by hand or even kneading until the dough is mostly not sticky, and has a firm texture and holds together in a ball. Refrigerate the dough until chilled through and easy to roll out. Once dough is stiff, pull out a piece to roll out and leave the rest chilled. Coat a clean, flat surface with flour and roll to about 1/4 inch thick for large St. Nick shapes, thinner for little cookies. (Really, they taste the same no matter what shape you cut them.) Cut shapes and move to an ungreased cookie sheet or baking stone. Re-roll the leftover pieces, but try not to get too much flour into them. You want them to remain light. They get tough if they’re mistreated. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 9 to 12 minutes for the thinner cookies, and 15 to 20 if your cookies are larger and 1/4” thick. Don’t wait until you can see the edges brown to check if they’re done. If they pick up without drooping in the middle, take them out of the oven. They’re probably done. Give them a minute to cool on a rack to see if they firm up if you’re unsure. A few extra minutes in the oven make the difference between a nice, light soft cookie or a crunchy one. Can be frozen, but they stay fresh in the cookie jar for probably four weeks.

SLO COOKER SWISS STEAK

Prepare meat the night before, then pop everything into the slo cooker before you leave for work in the morning, or better yet, before you leave for a day of shopping. When you get home, open and heat some canned green beans and mix up a batch of instant mashed potatoes to go with it.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika

salt and pepper to taste

2 pounds beef round steak, cut in 6 to 8 serving-size pieces,

pounded to tenderize

1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Canola oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 ribs celery, thinly sliced

1 large green pepper, cut into bite size chunks

2 cups thinly sliced onion

2 cans (14.5 ounces each) tomatoes, or 2 cups tomato or

V-8 juice

1/2 cup beef broth

Combine flour, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Baste steak pieces with Worcestershire sauce, then dredge in the flour mixture and beat the meat again, using a tenderizer mallet or the side of a heavy saucer. Heat oil over medium-high heat in frying pan and brown steak pieces about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer steak to slow cooker/Crock Pot. Put beef broth into the hot frying pan to loosen the pan drippings. Sprinkle garlic and celery over steak, then add the green pepper, sliced onion and tomatoes. Stir the pan drippings with a fork to get up all the browned bits, and pour the broth/pan dripping combination over the steak. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours (or on high 4 to 5 hours). Makes 6 to 8 servings. Leftovers, if any, freeze well, and are as good or better the second day.

BUTTERSCOTCH BROWNIE MIX

Get some pretty clear quart size containers, and mix up batches of this to give as Christmas offerings. Regular quart-size canning jars decorated with fabric ruffles between lid and rim also make good presentation containers. Attach baking instructions of course, and it’s nice to include the mix recipe and instructions as well.

Jar Ingredients:

(For the Butterscotch Brownie mix)

1/2 cup flaked coconut

3/4 cup chopped pecans

2 cups packed brown sugar

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix together flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside. Layer ingredients in order given in a 1 quart sized wide mouth canning jar. Add flour mixture last. Press each layer firmly in place. Store in a cool dry place away from heat. When it’s time to give, attach this message to jar: Butterscotch Brownies: Empty jar of brownie mix into large mixing bowl. Combine ingredients well while still dry. Add 3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature. Mix in 2 eggs, slightly beaten and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix until completely blended. Spread batter into a greased 9x13 inch metal pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in baking pan, then cut into squares. Cool completely in pan. Makes 2 dozen brownies if the squares are 1 1/2 inches.

Thought for the Week: Advent - the period during which we should prepare our hearts and our homes for Christmas - is here. Dear Lord, help us not be so busy with the Christmas bustle that we forget what it is all about. Pour forth Thy blessings upon this family, and grant that we may properly prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. Amen.”

(This column is written by Shirley Prudhomme of Crivitz. Views expressed are her own and are in no way intended to be an official statement of the opinions of Peshtigo Times editors and publishers. She may be contacted by phone at 715-927-5034 or by e-mail at shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo. com.)

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