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Country Cousin

Cold...

Hi Folks!

If weather of the past week is any indication, there should be no doubt at all that Christmas 2013 will be a white one. Snow has been teasing for weeks, but fell in earnest on Tuesday, Dec. 3. Even if this snowfall all melts, there’s plenty of time for a repeat before Santa comes with his sleigh on Dec. 24.

REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR

Saturday, Dec. 7 marks the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the attack that drew America fully into World War II. That war did not end until Aug. 10, 1945, after American planes dropped the world’s first Atom bombs on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945.

Similarities between then and now keep cropping up. The United States and Japan had been engaging in peace talks even as Japan was launching that surprise Sunday morning attack.

The United States and Iran have been recently engaged in peace talks that probably will have no better results than those of 1941. It just might take us longer to figure it out.

There was an old World War II song, “Remember Pearl Harbor.” It went, “... day and night, pray and fight, carry on!” The flip side of that record would not be politically acceptable today, since it referred to the color of our Japanese enemy, and declared we would wipe them off the map.

We did not wipe Japan off the map, but we did win the war.

And then we spent a lot of American time and money rebuilding Japan and the other nations that had tried to destroy us. We did a particularly good job with Japan, and it gives us the warm cozies to think they appreciate that and love us.

First hand observations while visiting Hawaii a few years back lead me to doubt that very much. Maybe that’s not surprising, considering that they too lost loved ones in that war, and some effects of the bomb we dropped have not gone away.

First, the Japanese tourists we encountered there - not the Americans of Japanese descent, mind you - were extremely rude to Americans, at least to this American and her sister-in- law. They shoved in front of lines at restaurants, refused to step aside so we could pass through their groups on sidewalks, and obviously expected us to step aside for them even when only one was approaching.

But the worst was on the Pearl Harbor monument, where a group of teenage Japanese boys were pointing, giggling and jeering at the roll of dead American seamen. An American woman accosted them in tears, declaring her father was buried on that ship. She was not young, because 1941 was a long, long time ago. That silenced them briefly, but as soon as she was gone their snickering and pointing resumed.

Maybe some wars are never really over. Or perhaps it will take another generation.

COPING WITH COLD

We’ve all probably heard this many times, but it bears repeating. Elderly persons, or anyone with a heart condition, needs to take special precautions when dealing with cold and snow.

Beware of over exertion. Heavy breathing draws in a lot of super cooled air. Shoveling can be particularly dangerous, but even walking through wet, heavy snow can strain the heart.

Watch out for hypothermia. If the body heat drops below 95 degrees symptoms like lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering and sleepiness may result. Those with heart disease or poor circulation are at particular risk. If you ever feel like falling asleep while out in the cold, find a way to get warmed up immediately!

Windy cold is particularly dangerous, and dampness causes bodies to lose heat faster.

Dress warmly, in layers. Since much body heat is lost through the head, and ears are particularly prone to frost bite, wear a hat or scarf.

BRAVE THE COLD

That said, there are pleasures too in winter weather. Even if you aren’t normally a fisherman, plan now to try out ice fishing during Wisconsin’s Winter Free Fishing Weekend, January 18-19, 2014. Out of town visitors take note: According to Wisconsin DNR, residents and nonresidents are welcome! No license required for that one weekend.

COLD, COLD, COLD

Don’t know if it’s still there, but there used to be a sign at the entrance to the Marine Corps Cold Weather Battalion at Pickle Meadows in the high Sierras, known for its frigid temperatures. The sign was meant to be reassuring. It stated: “Many are called but few are frozen.”

SHOPPING TIPS

When making out your Christmas list, keep in mind that gifts that offer a unique experience can be even more memorable than gifts that come in a pretty box. How about a hotel weekend, certificates for dinners out, services of a day spa?

The folks at NAPS, a national news clipping service, advise Christmas shoppers to use their credit cards to buy gifts if those cards offer cash back or discounts at retail or on-line stores. Some do, so check with your card company.

Credit card points also can be redeemed for popular holiday gifts. Some offer opportunities to purchase hard to come by tickets to shows, seminars and sports events, so again it’s a good idea to check with your card company. You could be in for a pleasant surprise. Or a few pleasant surprises.

ON THE SOAP BOX

Have been worried about the way we Americans have been insulting God while pretending to celebrate Christmas - or the winter holidays.

A frequent critic of this column sent an e-mail response: “Of course it is alright to insult your god on his birthday - it’s all make believe. If you believe there is a ‘magic man in the sky,’ you need some psychiatric help. Time for all of you to see the shrink and get some meds.”

Considering some of the ideas this reader has espoused in the past, tend to think he’s the one who needs meds, so will continue to pray for him.

However, his comments define a question for the nay-sayers who want to ban Christ from Christmas.

Why do they have no problem with scenes depicting Santa Claus, the reindeer, elves and even the Grinch, which they believe are make believe, but do have a problem with displays of the manger scene, which they tell us they also think is make believe?

We are allowed to set up displays of Santa and his friends on courthouse lawns, city halls, schools and county courthouses.

We are not allowed to set up manger scenes, shepherds, angels and stars.

If they are convinced that God, Jesus, angels and the Star of Bethlehem are also make believe, why do they object to those displays? Why, if they think both are make-believe, do they object to “Away in a Manger,” in a school Christmas - oops, “holiday” - program, while it’s okay for the children to sing, “Here Comes Santa Claus”?

The only reasonable answer seems to be that these vocal non-believers secretly, in their heart of hearts, do believe, and are afraid they’ll be convinced.

If that happens, God bless them, one and all! Christmas miracles happen every day.

SPA TREATMENT

Enough time on the soap box for this week!

It’s time to get beautiful for the holiday season, so take some time out from holiday preparations to pamper yourself. Don’t we all have more energy when we like the way we look?

If your hair is suffering the winter frizzies - or simply the dread drabs - give it a treat.

Don’t let anyone watch while you do it, though, unless they’re too young to talk.

Mix together three eggs, two tablespoons olive oil, and one teaspoon vinegar and apply it to your dry hair. Cover with a plastic shower cap and leave it on for half an hour. (Use this time to give yourself a facial. In fact, you can add some lemon juice and apply the mixture to your face with excellent results. Then, cut two slabs of cucumber and lay them on your eyelids while you lie on your back and listen to the radio. Fall asleep if you feel like it, but better protect the pillow case first! Come on. You’re worth it!)

HAVE A REAL TREE

Hope you’re having a real tree this year, and if not, at least hope it’s because of the work involved, not some misguided notion of saving a real tree.

Raising Christmas trees is big business in Marinette County, and if people quit buying them, the growers would probably plant corn instead.

If you can’t put up a real tree, at least use some real greenery somewhere in the house. There’s nothing like the scent of fresh evergreens. Even though the needles fall quickly, I personally love spruce. Look closely and you’ll see that at the end of each branch there is a cross!

Some Marinette County Christmas tree growers make wreaths, garlands, crosses and candy canes of evergreen boughs and have them for sale as well as the Christmas trees. They also bag up fallen fresh needles for customers to use as scenting agents in potpourri and kitty litter and in aluminum pie tins that they place near heat vents to give their homes the heady aroma of pine.

We’re told to never put a wreath between a storm door and an inside door. The wreath should go on the outside door or be hung on an east or north wall. Wreaths displayed outdoors often hold up so well that they can be held until winter is over and decorated as Easter wreaths, a resurrection of their own, if you like.

As for the Christmas tree itself, we’re told to cut a slice off the stump end to get back to fresh, moist wood before putting it in a stand and of course, keep it watered as long as it’s in the house. For ideal decorating, put the tree up several hours or a full day before you decorate it so the boughs relax into their natural position.

Even after the Christmas season ends, the tree can continue being useful. Chipped trees are used as mulch on hiking trails, playground areas and for landscaping. Whole trees are used in river shoreline stabilization, marshland sedimentation, and for fish habitat. In the yard they can become wild bird feeders and winter garden decorations before being returned to the earth they came from.

And in Crivitz they are collected for the annual community bonfire in January.

COOKIN’ TIME

Have recently discovered the wonders of using squash and pumpkins in other than the traditional ways. This Squash Soup recipe is just one example, and there are lots more. Pumpkin isn’t only for dessert, and neither is squash of course, but they both can be.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

This creamy delicious soup can be made almost fat free by using fat free half and half and reduced fat sour cream, or perhaps fat free Greek yogurt. But if you’re not on a fat-restricted diet, go for the real thing. Recipe makes six one cup servings. This is the original recipe. Personally, I leave out the ginger and add a couple dashes of nutmeg and some salt instead. No one in our family is on a salt free diet. But enjoy it either way. Also have found it much easier if you cut the squash in half first and roast it until almost done. Then peel and cut into chunks before adding it and the apples to the onion to brown a bit before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. This soup goes wonderfully with ham salad sandwiches.

2 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved,

seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into

1-inch chunks

1 can (14 ounces) chicken broth

1/3 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground

1 teaspoon ginger, ground

1 cup half-and-half

Optional Garnish:

6 tablespoons sour cream

1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans

Melt butter in large saucepan on medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir 3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add squash and apple; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth, orange juice, cinnamon and ginger. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minutes or until squash is tender, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly. With center part of cover removed to let steam escape, puree soup in batches in blender on high speed until smooth. Return pureed mixture to saucepan. Stir in half-and-half. Cook on low heat until heated through. Ladle into soup bowls. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream and a few chopped pecans.

MOUNTAIN MAN CORDIAL

This brew is not for the faint of heart. Make up a batch very soon, because it’s supposed to sit for a month. A few days short won’t hurt. It will be ready to be put into pretty bottles for Christmas giving or served for New Year’s celebrating. Advice of the person who offered the recipe is to take away the car keys before serving. Cannot speak from experience.

You need:

2 pints unthawed frozen blueberries

3 cups vodka, moonshine or gin

1 cup spring water

8 whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 cup sugar

Crush berries and put into a wide-mouth 2 quart jar. Add remaining ingredients except sugar. Store for 10 days stirring 5 times at different intervals. Strain through a paper coffee filter, Add sugar, stir and pour into a glass bottle. Cap and store for one month in a dark place.

SUGAR PLUMS

Our favorite bedtime story book had a favorite poem - “The Sugar Plum Tree.” Almost remember it word for word, but sure would like a copy, because our book got lost somewhere along the way. Anyway, we are not generally fond of candied fruits, but couldn’t resist when I found a recipe for sugar plums. Make these now. They keep nicely for at least a month in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Some recipes call for adding dried apricots as well. This particular one does not.

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1/4 cup finely chopped dates

1/4 cup finely chopped dried figs

1/4 cup finely chopped dried plums (prunes)

1/4 cup finely chopped dried cherries

1/4 cup finely chopped golden raisins

1/4 cup unsweetened grated coconut

2 tablespoons rum, orange liqueur or orange juice

Sugar, colored or plain

Optional Toppings:

Powdered sugar

Finely chopped pistachios

Finely grated bittersweet chocolate

Cocoa

Unsweetened grated coconut

Key to this recipe is to have the nuts and fruits all the same small size. You may chop them by hand, or, chop one by one in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulsing on and off until the desired size is reached. You do them separately because they require different times for chopping. Once chopped, place nuts, all the dried fruit, coconut and liquid of choice in a medium bowl and mix together by hand until thoroughly combined. They should hold together when compressed. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more liquid. Roll into 1-inch balls compressing the mixture so that it sticks together. Place sugar in small bowl and roll sugarplums in sugar to coat completely; place in small fluted paper cups, if desired. For the optional toppings: instead of rolling them in the granulated sugar, roll them in the suggested toppings. Try a few different versions, such as some rolled in finely chopped pistachios, others in cocoa or coconut for a real variety of flavors, colors and textures. This recipe makes 36 sugarplums.

Thought for the Week: An unknown author once said, “There are two ways to add to the light in this world: Either be the light or be the mirror that reflects the light.” Lord, help me to be a mirror that reflects Your light. 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 to shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo. com.)

COUNTRY COUSIN


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