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

Flowers...

Hi Folks!

What an absolutely glorious full moon week! Days have been warm and wonderful, nights soft, bright and balmy. Ideal for campfires and moon gazing and dreaming of days gone by or days to come, depending on age.

Sadly, summer is already drawing to a close. Saw a few branches of colored leaves in the northern reaches of the county this weekend, and Labor Day isn’t here yet.

Fair time is though, in Marinette County. Don’t miss it. If you have concerns about nitrates in your well water, put a sample in a clean container with a tightly fitting lid, attach a label with your name and phone number, and bring it to the Fair on Saturday, Aug. 24. UWEX is offering free testing that day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. at their booth in the western part of the main exhibit building. Testing takes only a few minutes, or you can drop off the sample and come back later for results.

The fair runs from Thursday, Aug. 22 through Sunday, Aug. 25.

SUN ATTACKS

NASA officials tell us the sun was extremely active on Tuesday, Aug. 20 firing off some particularly huge Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) of super heated magnetic particles in the direction of Earth.

Wonder if that type of thing could have any effect on global warming? Doesn’t sound like it, but need to wonder why not.

NASA scientists say the particles typically take two or three days to reach Earth, at which point they can trigger geomagnetic storms that can disrupt radio communications, GPS signals and power grids, and can also trigger some impressive Northern Lights displays, so those of us who like to watch the night sky may be in for a treat. A CME that erupted on Saturday, Aug. 17 may have caused some extra Aurora Borealis activity. Any displays in the last week or so would have been hard to see, at least in our area because the moon has been so bright.

The cloud from this CME is not expected to slam directly into Earth, but our planet will likely cruise through the cloud’s wake after it passes by, experts said.

NASA also says the sun is reaching the peak activity phase of its current 11-year cycle, which is known as Solar Cycle 24. Solar Cycle 24’s maximum is shaping up to be the weakest of the last 100 years or so, scientists say, with relatively few powerful solar flares, CMEs and other big space weather events, so maybe we won’t be treated to the incredible northern light color show we enjoyed a decade or so ago.

REMEMBER WHEN?

“Hallelujah! Gas prices have fallen!”

Hold on. Don’t get too excited. Those words were written in this column on Jan. 17, 2006, just seven years ago.

It went on, “Pump price has been far above today’s $2.13 a gallon for a long, long time. Then, there it was - a significant price drop. Hope the downward spiral keeps on, or at least it doesn’t spiral upward again anywhere in the near future. With gas prices finally coming down out of the stratosphere maybe we can all get our budgets back into orbit!”

Boy, didn’t take long for that hope to be dashed!

SCAM CALLS

Beware area code “876.” The call is probably from one of an army of scammers working out of Jamaica to separate Americans from their money. Often the callers inform the victim they have won lottery or some other marvelous prize, but they must send money to receive it.

A key to the scammer’s success is convincing victims to promise not to tell their family members and to make it a big surprise. If the scammers feel they have a potential victim, the calls will increase in frequency and urgency.

The money is requested through a wire from Western Union, Green Dot Card or in a creative way such as putting $100 bills in each page of a magazine.

Don’t send it! Hang up, and if the same number calls back, don’t answer!

AARP fraud fighter Harold Moldoff advises, “Don’t pay any money to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings. Never wire money to anyone with whom you are not familiar. Don’t provide anyone with personal information such as bank account, pin numbers, or Social Security numbers. And contact your local authorities to report a phone scam.”

Now there’s a new twist. Cybercrooks have upped their game in the common “ransomware” scam, in which your screen displays a bogus FBI message accusing you of watching child pornography or another illegal online activity — and then freezes your computer until a “fine” is paid.

If that happens to you, don’t panic, and don’t pay, no matter how official the message looks. Call the authorities, including the IC3, to report the scam, and you might be well advised to consult a professional to clean up your computer, since some of the scams plant “malware” that can send your personal information to places you don’t want it to go.

Incidentally, the IC3 is an Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). You can reach them on your computer or someone else’s simply by typing in “IC3”.

DON’T EAT THE BOX

Actually, scientists are warning you probably also shouldn’t eat the food that came in some of them, and that includes aluminum cans and plastic containers. According to Reuters Health, new research shows that children exposed to two chemicals commonly used in food packaging BPA and DEHP - are more likely to be obese or show signs of diabetes precursors than those with lower exposure.

They didn’t draw the conclusion, but that may explain the sudden diabetes epidemic that seems to have hit this country.

“Researchers found urine levels of one type of phthalate, used to soften plastic, were tied to a higher risk of insulin resistance among teenagers. Based on data from the same large nutrition survey, another study group linked bisphenol A, or BPA - used to line aluminum cans - to obesity and larger waists in youth,” the article said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in six U.S. children and teenagers is now obese.

Scientists who analyzed data in a study conducted from 2003 to 2008 found urinary levels of one particular type of phthalate, known as Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP), were closely tied to a teenager’s chance of having insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

DEHP is used in plastic that is printed with the number 3 for recycling, generally some type of drink bottle.

At least one of the researchers is telling parents to avoid buying plastics made with DEHP. He’s also advising not to wash plastic containers in the dishwasher and to throw them away if the plastic is clearly etched or damaged.

A separate study analyzed data on the effects of BPA - an industrial chemical that may mimic estrogen in the body. They found the chemical was not linked to insulin resistance or blood sugar, but children with higher BPA levels were more likely to be obese than those with the lowest levels.

Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned BPA from baby bottles, but said there was not enough evidence for a more widespread ban. The agency has not placed regulations on phthalates in food products, but parents can.

It’s a good idea anyway to limit soft drinks and packaged goodies and serve more things that are homemade and come in a natural wrapping - like an orange peel.

SAVE THE FLOWERS

It’s sad that so many of the beautiful wild flowers blooming in fields and along roadsides simply don’t last if we attempt to put them in vases in the house.

Article in an old women’s magazine says adding a few drops of peroxide to the water in the vase will delay deterioration of our wildflower bouquet.

If that’s the case, doing the same thing for flowers plucked from our gardens should make them also last longer.

It’s certainly worth a try.

Just do NOT try adding vinegar. That usually proves extremely fatal.

That same article tells of threading florist’s wire through the centers of blossoms to form them into napkin rings for bridal shower. I’d try it first a day or so ahead of time with the same variety I wanted to use for the thing to make sure they’d at least stay pretty until all the guests were seated.

How embarrassing would it be to deck out a lovely table and then find everything wilted and shriveled before the guests arrived?

COOKIN’ TIME

Good growing things are available everywhere, whether in your own garden, at a roadside stand, or in the garden of a friend or neighbor who’s willing to share. There’s absolutely nothing like the flavor of a sun-kissed, vine ripened tomato, or an ear of corn so fresh the water was boiling before you fetched it from the garden. If you’ve never tried that, do. My favorite garden cookbook author says to get the water boiling, walk on down to the garden, pick the corn and then run back to pop it into the kettle. You’re supposed to husk it on the way. Bet popping that very fresh ear into the microwave, unhusked, for two minutes would also work.

HOMEMADE HORSERADISH

Horseradish is best harvested in late fall, just before the ground freezes, or very early in spring, but if you have an ample supply, go ahead and dig some now for table use. Goes very well with all sorts of grilled foods, including summer squash. Making homemade, home grown horseradish was a painful job back in the day when it had to be grated by hand, but today, with the food processor it’s a breeze. When you dig up some roots, leave enough root attached to the leaves and put it back into the ground. They usually grow a new one. Just learned that the secret to really, really hot horseradish is to work slowly. The longer you wait after grinding it before adding vinegar, the hotter it will get. And a word of warning. When you’re dealing with horseradish, work in a well ventilated area. Keep horseradish-tainted hands away from eyes, nose and mouth, and keep your face away from the lid of the food processor or grating bowl. You don’t want to choke.

1 cup peeled and diced horseradish root

3/4 cup vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Food processor or blender

Glass or plastic container with lid

Wash and peel the roots. (I scraped off my root with my thumb nail.) Process until it gets to the texture you want. It should be a bit stringy, not chunky. If you want it very hot, let the grated root sit for a few minutes. When you’re ready to stop the heat increase, add vinegar, salt and sugar and process again to mix. The spice or heat level of processed horseradish is determined by how quickly vinegar is added. To produce milder horseradish, add vinegar immediately; for a spicier product, wait a few minutes before adding vinegar. Process with all the ingredients in it, and if too thick, add a bit more vinegar. White vinegar is recommended, but they say any vinegar will do. Keeps a few months in the fridge, or freeze some for later use.

RIGATI AL FRESCO

Goes great with meatloaf or any grilled meat or fish. Can be served warm or cold. Standing in the fridge doesn’t hurt it a bit. Substitute linguini or regular spaghetti, not angel hair, for the Rigati if you wish.

2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 young yellow summer squash, washed, halved and thinly

sliced

25 black olives, sliced or chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 green onions, cleaned and thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

14 to 16 ounces Rigati (a flat somewhat thin, ribbed pasta)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Dice the tomatoes and let some of the juice drain out of them while you prepare the olives, onions and garlic. Then, right in the serving bowl, mix everything except the pasta and cheese. Let this stand for half an hour. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. When done, drain but do not rinse. Add to the rest of the ingredients in the bowl, toss. Add the cheese and toss again. Serve immediately.

CREAMY CUKE SALAD

Had a lovely e-mail from a reader in need of cucumber recipes. Hope one of these is what you were looking for. Am now gathering recipes for small new potatoes. Hope I get them to you before the potatoes grow up.

Cucumbers, young with tender skins and small seeds

Sweet slicing onions

Salt

Snipped fresh dill weed, or dried, crumbled

Mayonnaise, the real thing, not salad dressing

Wash cukes, and peel off skin in stripes, so some stays on and some comes off. Slice thinly into bowl. Slice onions and add to the bowl, about half as many as there are cukes. Add a teaspoon or two of salt and mix through with well washed hands to be sure some of the salt gets on everything. Cover and let sit in fridge or on counter for at least an hour. Overnight is okay. Drain well and taste. If they’re too salty, rinse with cold water and drain again. Put in serving dish, add dill weed and then stir in enough mayonnaise to make it the texture you like. We much prefer Hellman’s. Some people like to add sugar with the mayo. We prefer not.

FRESH CUKE SALAD

2 quarts sliced cucumbers

2 tablespoons salt

1 lg. onion, sliced

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill

Combine cucumbers, salt, onions, and enough water to cover. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Next day; drain. Add sugar, water and vinegar. Serve as is, or if you want to freeze these for winter enjoyment, let them stay in fridge for another 24 hours and then put into freezer container and freeze.

FROZEN CUCUMBERS (FREEZER PICKLES)

7 cup sliced (thinly) cucumbers

1 cup onions, sliced thinly

1 cup green peppers, diced or sliced

2 cups sugar

1 cup vinegar, white

1 tsp. celery seed

1 1/2 tsp. salt

Mix sugar, vinegar, celery seed and salt until sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumbers and stir well. Keep in refrigerator 4 or 5 days; mixing well each day. Then put into containers and freeze. I much prefer this made with only about a half cup of sugar and equal amounts of vinegar and water.

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER SQUARES

When you need a sweet and don’t want to bake, create this chocolatey, peanut buttery treat. Decorate with candles or candies while the chocolate is still soft and you could even pass this off as a birthday cake.

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 cups powdered sugar

1-1/2 cups Nabisco Graham Cracker Crumbs

1 cup creamy peanut butter

3 pkg. (4 oz. each) semi-sweet chocolate, broken into

pieces, melted

Line 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Melt butter in large microwaveable bowl on high 45 sec. Add next 3 ingredients; mix well. Spread onto bottom of prepared pan; cover with chocolate. Cut partially through dessert to mark 48 squares. Refrigerate one hour or until firm. Use foil handles to remove dessert from pan; cut into squares.

Thought for the Week: Summer is going fast. As an unknown person wrote on a web site, “The tans will fade, but the memories will last forever...Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.” There isn’t much time left for getting a tan, and they aren’t healthy anyway, but there’s still time to leave some footprints in the sand and build the memories they lead you to. Don’t waste it!

(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 to shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo .com.)

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