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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!

Celebrating for Christmas and the New Year is all but over. It’s time to start working to making 2014 the best year that it can be, for ourselves as individuals, for America as a nation, and for the world as a whole.

We need to be active and involved, in everything from our own health care to local government to national politics. Ask the right questions. Realize that not everything that’s broadcast or published is necessarily true.

AULD LANG SYNE

Some of us were singing that tune about midnight on Tuesday, Dec. 31. According to NAPSA, a national news service, variations of the song were sung in old Scotland, and they inspired British poet Robert Burns to pen the version we know today. Simply translated, Auld Lang Syne means, old long ago, or simply, the good old days.

CHRISTMAS PETS

A friendly reader, Beverly Dragosh of Pembine, notes that some folks may have received a brand new pet for Christmas, and offers some hints for handling this lifetime commitment. She says the only thing that can compare with the love of a pet, and the responsibility that goes with it, is the addition of a child to the family.

There’s potty training, feeding and walking, plus grooming, including baths, brushing and nails to be trimmed.

Like a child, a pet must be watched to be sure it doesn’t get into trouble. Pet proof your home. Pills, lotions, and salves must be kept out of reach. If you’ll be gone from home for long periods you may need a pet sitter.

(My experience also is that as the pet gets slight older you need to protect shoes, pillows, anything that holds your scent. One of our family members now has a cat that steals and hides things like glasses, pens, car keys and remote controllers.)

Bev reminds never to give animals onions, garlic, raisins, grapes, chocolate, avocado, or macadamia nuts and she prohibits pork products.

Weird behavior like scooting its butt along the carpet might mean it’s time for your pet to see the vet, she says. That can indicate a gland problem that needs taking care of.

She said her family is going through its second Christmas without their much loved Min-Pin, Sunshine, but are enjoying the company of an adopted stray cat that they named Tommy. She said she was a professional poodle groomer for 10 years.

THE LIGHT DAWNS

If you’re short on light bulbs, better stock up. I have tried those new energy-saving types of bulbs and am sorely disappointed. They do not give the right light, they’re slow to light up, don’t last as long as their makers claim, and cost too much to start with, and make no noticeable difference on the light bill.

But it’s getting harder and harder to find the 100 watt bulbs I prefer. None of the stores seemed to have them.

Just found out why. Back in 2007, Congress passed a law phasing out the manufacture of our good old-fashioned light bulbs. Companies were forced to stop making the 100 watt bulbs in 2012, and 75 watt bulbs went out of production in 2013. Now, according to Yahoo Shine, on Jan. 1, 2014, it will be lights out for standard incandescent 60- and 40-watt light bulbs, thanks to the Energy Independence and Security Act, which was signed into law by President George Bush in 2007, it will be illegal to manufacture or import them after Dec. 31. Retailers are still able to sell off any remaining stock.

Environmentalists say the old incandescent bulbs are highly inefficient - only about 10 percent of their energy output is converted into light; the rest is lost to heat. (Not so bad during the winter for those of us shivering in the north country.) Anyway, a Natural Resources Defense Council spokesman says once all of our nation’s 4 billion screw-based sockets have an efficient bulb in them, U.S. consumers will save $13 billion and 30 large coal-burning power plants-worth of electricity a year.

He claims individuals who replace an incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent light will save about $50 over the course of the bulb’s lifetime. (Understand that’s supposed to be five years.) Hasn’t been the case with us, though. Maybe shouldn’t have bought the discount ones.

Anyway, those new bulbs can be pricey, some costing as mush as $10 for a bulb comparable to a 60-watt incandescent bulb.

As to savings, when we left two 100-watt bulbs burning in the chicken house 24/7 it boosted our electric bill by $100 per month, compared to the times there were no baby chicks to keep warm. (Yep. There goes another good solution. How will we keep those chicks warm now?)

Aside from the price, the heat, and the delay in lighting up, here’s betting before long we’ll be under orders to take some precautions when throwing out the burned out ones.

They also emit a different quality light, not the cozy yellow glow we’re accustomed too. Sort of a cold light look compared to warm. Here’s betting that will increase moods of depression, and overall that is not good. At least one lighting designer believes that LEDs and fluorescents can be fatiguing on the eyes and unpleasant to live and work with for long periods of time.

Wonder if the introduction of those new bulbs has anything to do with the skyrocketing suicide rate of the last half dozen years?

Just asking.

Anyway, if you want to enjoy the cozy glow of old fashioned light bulbs, better stock up now. They’ll all be disappearing off shelves in a short time.

ON THE SOAP BOX

INNOVATIONS

The start of a new year is a good time to remember that the greatest advances humanity has ever seen came during times and places with the greatest personal liberty - when government stepped out of the way and allowed individuals reap the benefits of their own innovation and labor. Anybody who doubts this should go back and read their history books. Now we just need to convince those folks in Washington and Madison that they’re the problem, not the solution.

MORE SOAP BOX

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

Appears our great leaders in Washington never heard of those words. Amid tearful claims they have cut everything that can be cut, they just passed another record-breaking budget.

Apparently the Washington idea of frugality differs a bit from yours and mine.

The Morning Bell, a web publication of The Foundry, which is an affiliate of The Heritage Foundation recently published a list of what they believe are the top 10 examples of wasteful government spending this year.

Remember, that this was during year of government shut downs, and even include a time when the national parks were closed, veterans were barred from visiting the national monuments, and visitors were not allowed into the White House. Of course, the brilliant minds who devised the shut downs forgot to tell us until later that all the laid off employees got paid anyway so those austerity measures, obviously designed to inconvenience the greatest possible number of people while doing little or nothing to the good old Washington apple cart, did no good at all.

Anyway, while those things were happening, judicious Washington spending went on in other areas just as it always has.

Selected as the 10 worst examples of Federal spending this year are:

10. Outhouse in Alaska: $98,670. The Interior Department spent nearly $100,000 to install an outhouse on an Alaskan trail, which includes a single toilet with no internal plumbing

9. A bus stop with heated pavement for the Washington area: $1 million. A lavish bus stop with heated pavement was built in Arlington, VA, but it has failed to keep commuters warm or dry.

8. Grant for a pole dancing performance: $10,000. Utility poles, that is. The National Endowment for the Arts provided a grant to PowerUP for Austin Energy employees to perform an artsy dance with 20 utility poles, accompanied by a live orchestra.

7. Pizza — from a printer: NASA gave a $124,995 grant to a company that aspires to make pizza from a 3-D printer.

6. A $335,525 study of 81 couples funded by the National Institutes of Health discovered that the happiest marriages were the ones in which the wives were able to calm down quickly during marital conflict.

5. Our poor broke government paid millions for booze and crystal for the State Department, which went on a bender the week before the government shutdown, purchasing $5.4 million of exquisite crystal glassware to presumably drink the $400,000 in booze they purchased in 2013. Guess who was running that department at the time?

4. Monitoring depression on Twitter: $82,000. The National Institutes of Health is funding a study to use Twitter for surveillance on depressed people, according to the Free Beacon.

3. An artist has been paid $1 million to produce a granite sculpture for the American Embassy in London. The Daily Mail says work of the artist commissioned for the job: resembles stacked piles of paving stones.

2. Artwork for Veterans Affairs offices: $562,000. The Department of Veterans Affairs went on a spending spree during use it or lose it season, purchasing over half a million in artwork and millions in furniture in a single week. And finally:

1. A trip for government employees to a luxury hotel in the Caribbean: priceless. Federal employees took a taxpayer-funded trip to the Buccaneer Hotel in St. Croix - the same hotel made famous on TV’s The Bachelor. The bill was divided among a number of agencies, making a final tally difficult to come by.

Chosen as runner-up in the Top Ten competition was the $130,000 in taxpayer dollars spent to hire the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens to support the ObamaCare campaign. Yep! $130,000 from our poor, strapped Federal government, spent to buy public support for ObamaCare, a government-takeover of health care that many of us bitterly oppose. Sad. Years ago those of us alive and observant during the Cold War days pitied the people of Communist Russia for having a government that used those sorts of tactics against them. Now here we are!

Anyway, this Top Ten compilation came from The Morning Bell, a web publication of The Foundry, in affiliation with the The Heritage Foundation. For other examples of government waste, they invite us to look at Heritage’s 2013 edition of Federal Spending by the Numbers and Senator Tom Coburn’s 2013 Wastebook.

SOME GOOD NEWS

We all know there are good folks out there, and most of us count ourselves among them. Not sure if we’re quite this good, but certainly do hope so.

A Florida waitress, Samantha Knight, who found $1,000 left behind on a table the week before Christmas chased after the patron and gave him the money.

But she had chased down the wrong man. According to a local news station, the following day the real owner called to claim the money, but it was gone. The waitress felt bad (she was perhaps even being accused of taking the money) and the fellow who lost the money felt bad.

Then, in what could be a Charles Dickens story, the man who accepted the money returned to the restaurant. He said he had taken the money by mistake. He gave back the $1,000 and added an extra hundred for the honest waitress, who incidentally is pregnant.

Her tears turned to joy, the waitress then contacted the true owner of the money. He also certainly turned out to be no Scrooge. He told the waitress to keep the $1,000 for herself.

See, there is a Santa Claus!

COOKIN’ TIME

TURKEY POT PIES

Some of us are lucky enough to have some leftover turkey, and this is an excellent way to use it. If you don’t want to use individual ramekins, feel free to bake the whole thing in a casserole dish. Serves six. No leftover turkey? Make this from the remains of a rotisserie chicken. Boil the bones and skin and whatever juices came with the bird to make the broth. Add water to make the two cups, and a package of Golden Seasons Broth mix if you must. In that case, watch the salt.

1⁄4 cup butter

1 large onion, diced

3 carrots, chopped, about 1 cup

1⁄2 cup flour

2 cups turkey or chicken broth

1 cup milk

2 cups leftover turkey, diced

1 cup frozen peas (or sliced asparagus)

6 biscuits (1 package ready-to-bake biscuits)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large heavy skillet or saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots, and cook until soft and golden. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for an additional minute, then whisk in the stock vigorously to avoid any lumps. Whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and cook until thick but still saucy, stirring often, for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the turkey and peas, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange six ramekins on a baking sheet. Spoon the filling into the ramekins. Roll out the biscuits to fit the top of the pot pies and cover each ramekin. Bake until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Back when Fridays were meatless, we used to make this with canned salmon or tuna. Do clean skin and bones from the salmon before you flake it.

CABBAGE CASSEROLE

1 head cabbage

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 pound lean ground beef

1/2 pound finely diced pork

1 teaspoon caraway seed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

6 strips of bacon

Bring a large kettle of lightly salted water to a boil. Core cabbage, but leave the head intact. Place cabbage in boiling water and simmer until leaves are soft and pliable, but still sturdy, about 7 minutes. Remove and drain. Gently pull off 12 outer leaves and set aside. Finely chop remaining cabbage. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until hot, but not smoking. Add onions, beef and pork. Cook until lightly browned; drain. Add chopped cabbage, caraway seed, salt and pepper; stir until well combined. Pour in white wine and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking dish with remaining oil then line with half the cabbage leaves. Spoon meat mixture evenly over the top then cover with the rest of the cabbage. Arrange bacon on top. Bake for 45 minutes, or until thoroughly heated. Serve warm. Good with baked potatoes, which can be done in oven at the same time. Add some green beans to the meal to encourage filling up on vegetables, of which most of us never eat enough. Cottage cheese and peaches make a good dessert. So does the following

DIET DESSERT

1 pint cottage cheese

1 small carton whipped topping

1 package diet gelatin dessert (3 ounces), your choice of

flavors

1 cup fruit of your choice, chopped or pureed

Mix cottage cheese and gelatin dessert powder together. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in whipped topping and fruit. Chopped nuts can be added if you like. Ready to serve right away or keeps several days if well covered. I like this with lemon gelatin and pineapple, peaches and peach gelatin, orange gelatin and mandarin oranges. Try your own combinations. Delicious and no guilt!

Thought For the Week: As we move into the New year, we should all buckle on our courage and set out to dream dreams and make them come true. As Gordon Parks once said, The guy who takes a chance, who walks the line between the known and the unknown, who is unafraid of failure, will succeed. Another key, as expressed by William Feathers is to keep trying. As he put it, Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and productive 2014!

COUNTRY COUSIN


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