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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!

Summer of 2013 is definitely over! We may be treated to a few more fine days before winter sets in, but they’ll be more like mid-term breaks than extensions of summer vacation. Night time temperatures have been in the mid-20s lately, and that’s not a harbinger of good things to come. This is still October, not November, and if temps keep going the way they are, the kids will be wearing snow suits over their Halloween costumes!

WEDDING MONTH

October has just about taken over from June as the most popular month for weddings. In terms of weather, it’s generally a bit more reliable than June. This year was the exception, but it’s a month in which (in most years) you can almost count on golden days, moderate temperatures and sunny skies.

Whatever month you get married in, it pays to remember that while some marriages may be made in heaven, they all need to be maintained on earth - by males and females with human failings that need to be forgiven.

As an unknown philosopher observed, successful marriage isn’t just about finding the right person - it’s about being the right person!

NEW DEFINITION

Read some new definitions in an old Reader’s Digest. Heaven, they said, is a gated community, while Heck is the place people go who don’t believe in Gosh.

But the best was perhaps their observations on calories: “Tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes tighter every night.” Right on, but they probably also live in the bathroom scales, where they clog up the mechanism, causing the needle to move on to higher numbers.

TO UNSHRINK

Winter is coming on, and for some folks (not me, I’m allergic), that means time to get the wool duds out of mothballs.

Most everyone has had a bad experience with wool, such as washing that favorite sweater in water a bit too hot and having it shrink down to doll size. Am told that problem can sometimes be cured by soaking it for half an hour in a strong solution of water and hair conditioner. This is said to untangle the fibers and allow your garment to return to the size it was meant to be.

Incidentally, if your dog’s fur has developed mats, work hair conditioner into them and they should comb out. Then launder the dog.

ON OBAMACARE

Congressmen in good old Washington may have caved, and abandoned us to the mercies of the Unaffordable Health Care Act, but maybe we’ll be saved by the uncooperative computer system that was designed to help implement the monstrosity.

If it does, it will have been worth the $385 million the Federal bureaucrats spent on it.

The health insurance requirement imposed by “Nanny Government” (she took over from Uncle Sam, you know), is slated to go into effect very soon, and some people who may have actually read the law claim everyone must either enroll in ObamaCare or have other health insurance by March 1.

To facilitate that, an extensive computer program was set up to supposedly answer questions and assist enrollment. One problem was that you have to provide sensitive personal information and basically enroll before it will yield up information on various plans you might want to consider buying.

(That rule, incidentally, comes on the heels of a Federal decree that municipal water and sewer bills can no longer be mailed in postcard form because they may contain sensitive personal information. Like who lives in a house or apartment?)

Anyway, even President Obama had to admit the website he paid so dearly for isn’t working, and on that issue it’s doubtful anyone will disagree. Then he offered some telephone numbers, but they didn’t work either.

Even those who have been getting through to get the information they seek are not happy, and even the liberal mainstream press is revealing its displeasure. Some are finally admitting that public unhappiness with the Affordable Health Care Act may be well placed.

An Associated Press article on Yahoo quoted information gathered from Facebook pages and stated, “Some people trolling for insurance on the exchanges are questioning why Obamacare is called the ‘Affordable’ Care Act.”

The AP story said, “Many who were uninsured before are feeling forced to buy pricey insurance they don’t want. Others who had bare-bones individual plans are seeing the premium prices soar because the Obamacare plans are more comprehensive.”

People who accessed the website information have discovered that the “bronze plans,” which have the lowest monthly payments, also have the highest deductibles and risk of huge out of pocket expenses, up to $6,000 a year.

“One North Carolina reader was upset to learn her current $267 a month plan was being canceled and the cheapest option on the exchange would cost her family $750 a month. They don’t qualify for a subsidy. “Obamacare is a nightmare for my family,” she wrote.

There was a campaign pledge from President Obama, before he was elected, that the full text of any proposed “health care reform law” would be posted online for everyone to read before legislators were asked to vote on it.

As we all know by now, it turned out that legislators voted on it, and Democratic Senators passed it, before they had even finished writing it. To this day, they can keep rewriting the thing because no one knows what it said or meant in the first place.

Then President Obama promised that even if the Affordable Health Care Act became the law of the land, anyone who wanted to would be allowed to keep his or her own insurance, and be treated by his or her own choice of physicians.

Not true either. Regulations on insurance companies have forced many to cancel policies, replacing them with costlier alternatives, so no, you can’t keep your old policy.

So much for promises. Regulators long ago learned to go around to the back if the front door is locked. You’re free to keep your old insurance, yes indeed, but your insurance company is no longer allowed to sell it. Excuse is that the old policy wasn’t any good in the first place. That may or may not be true, but it was your policy, and you were promised the right to keep it.

Even if the existing computer and telephone snafus convince our president and his friends that implementation of the law for individuals should be postponed for a year as it was for businesses, it may be be too late to prevent huge problems in the insurance and health care fields.

But hopefully, it will not be too late to save us all from the rationed health care to which the existing new rules will eventually lead.

SERVICE STATIONS

Youngsters today may not even believe this, but time was that service stations really were service stations.

You pulled up to the pump at a service station, probably owned by the guy down the street, and someone came out to pump the gas for you. While doing that, he’d wash the windshield, check the oil and add some if needed, check the anti freeze level, even put air in your tires if you asked him.

Now, the stations are almost all owned by some big corporation far away, or at least the franchise is, and the person behind the counter is most likely a kid you used to babysit. You pump your own gas, wash your own windshield, put in your own oil, and put air in your own tires.

To add insult to injury, at most stations today you even have to pay for the air! And guess what? Most of them charge 25 cents, which is two cents more than we were paying for gas back in the good ole days.

Ironically, back when they were really service stations, we called them filling stations.

Eventually, some of the filling stations posted signs, “Full Service!”

Then they started offering a choice, self service or full service pumps.

That was the beginning of the end of service stations as we knew them. We should have seen it coming.

PUMPKIN PI

Halloween is coming on, and most of us either have carved our Jack-O-Lanterns already, or are getting ready to.

Know what you get if you divide the diameter of a pumpkin by its circumference?

Pumpkin Pi.

Remember geometry?

But back to Jack-O-Lanterns. When its decorative use is over, the remains can be turned into the basis of a pie, soup, bread or bars. The really large light colored pumpkins don’t have as much flavor as the small thick fleshed dark orange ones, but they are edible.

My parents called the big pumpkins “cow pumpkins” and the smaller bright colored ones “pie pumpkins.”

Either type can be baked or steamed with the shell on, and then peeled before being mashed to serve as squash with butter, maple syrup, salt and pepper or as an ingredient in some of our favorite autumn treats.

Was amazed when visiting Crivitz, Germany to learn that friends there did not consider pumpkins fit for human consumption. Then again, they had never tasted corn on the cob, either. Guess that’s what comes of living behind the Iron Curtain for so many years! Both treats were introduced to the Pilgrims by the American Indians who were here to greet them when they got off the Mayflower.

COOKIN’ TIME

Gardens are done except perhaps for Brussels Sprouts, and we probably won’t get to taste a really good tomato again until next summer, but there are lots of compensations. This is the season for slo cooked and baked meals and treats, as well as for indoor parties and tailgating.

WITCHY GUACAMOLE

Great snack for Halloween or Packer parties. The green look with chunks of red tomato makes this delicious dip/topping look like something a witch or her friend Shrek might dream up, so get creative in how you present it.

2 large avocados

1/2 cup fresh tomato, diced

1/4 cup onion, minced

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

2 teaspoons half & half

1 teaspoon Serrano chilies, minced (optional)

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon oregano, dried

Cut the avocados in half, remove the seeds and scoop out the flesh. Place in mixing bowl, mash with a fork or edge of spoon. Add onion, lime juice, cilantro, half-&-half, chilies, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. Mix thoroughly. Serve immediately with chips or veggies, your choice, but preferably do include some plain taco chips. Makes 4 to 6 servings. P.S. Also good dolloped on refried beans, very thick chili, or lightly seasoned rice cooked with a bit of tomato juice.

BROCCOLI/CHICKEN ALFREDO

This easy casserole takes only about 10 minutes to throw together and 20 minutes to cook. Can easily be converted to a Tuna Casserole by substituting two cans of tuna for the chicken. Recipe makes 8 servings. For variety, when browning the chicken cubes, add some diced onion and green pepper cubes, and maybe even some sliced celery.

1 pound linguine or spaghetti

2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets

3 tablespoons butter

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2

pounds), cut into cubes

1 large can (26 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom

soup

1 cup milk

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Boil the linguine in salted water according to the package directions, but add the broccoli during the last 4 minutes of the cooking time. Drain the linguine mixture well in a colander. Heat the butter in the saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until well browned, stirring often. Stir in the soup, milk, cheese, black pepper and linguine mixture and cook until the chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

NUTTY APPLE BARS

Apples are plentiful and inexpensive. For the best flavor of apple treats, many cooks recommend using more than one variety. Slightly tart, juicy varieties are best for cooking. You make these bars in several steps, but they’re not difficult. Great to bring along for a party or pot luck.

Crumb Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, slightly softened

1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Crust:

3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

Salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter

Apple Filling:

4 pounds cooking apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-

inch chunks

4 tablespoon butter

3/4 cup raisins or dried currants

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 teaspoons cornstarch

3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

First, prepare Crumb Topping by using your well-washed fingers to mix all topping ingredients until mixture comes together. Shape into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate to use later.

To prepare crust, Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease sides of a 15 1/2” by 10 1/2” jelly-roll pan. Mix flour, sugar and salt and cut in butter as you would for pie crust. Add a few drops of water if necessary to get it to form into a ball. Press crust mixture on bottom and just slightly up the sides of the prepared jelly roll pan and bake 20 to 24 minutes or until golden brown (The crust may crack slightly, but don’t worry about that).

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling: In a nonstick 12-inch skillet, melt the butter, then add apples and cook until their juices start to flow. Add the raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon and cook over medium heat 25 to 30 minutes or until the apples are very tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. In a cup, mix cornstarch and lemon juice, and stir this into the cooked apple mixture. continue cooking and stirring until the mixture thickens. Remove skillet from heat. Spread apple mixture over hot crust. Break the prepared Crumb Topping into chunks and scatter over the apple mixture. Bake 40 minutes or until the topping browns. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut in to squares to serve.

Thought for the week: Once upon a time, Halloween was known as All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day, which was and still should be a major religious holiday honoring all the good people who have died and gone to their rewards in heaven. Some folks came to believe that on Halloween the not good dead were allowed to wander the Earth. Let us, on this Halloween, be thankful that we no longer live in a world filled with fear of ghosts and ghouls, but remember to thank God for the saints whose teachings have helped us, and whose lives should serve as examples to us all.

(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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