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

Housebound...

Hi Folks!

This cold just won’t give up! Was afraid that short warm spell we had back in December was our January thaw, and it must have been. Certainly didn’t happen last month! Hasn’t even been warm enough yet in 2014 to have a snowball fight.

Regardless of the cold, this is the time for hearts and flowers. Thank goodness for greenhouses or there surely wouldn’t be any flowers.

On the other hand, cuddling in front of a cozy fireplace seems like a lovely way to spend Valentine’s Day, and the weather is perfect for that.

Holiday-wise, once Feb. 14 is past we don’t have much to look forward to in the near future except for St. Patrick’s Day a month from now.

Easter comes just about as late as it possibly can this year. Doesn’t happen until Sunday, April 20. Might be sort of Spring by then. Or it might not. Most winters if our family was lucky enough to get new outfits, including spring coats and shoes, for Easter we still had to wear our old winter gear to church because it was too cold and snowy.

DESTROY YOUR ENEMIES

Back in the day, Feb. 12 used to be Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and Feb. 22 was George Washington’s birthday. They each had their own special day on our calendars, one because he truly was the Father of our Country, the other because he led the Union to victory in the Civil War and thus kept it one country.

Somewhere along the line politicians in Washington 8 took their birthdays off the calendar and replaced them with President’s Day on the third Monday of February.

Now some of the Presidents since George Washington deserve to be remembered, and some we’d like to forget. They were not all great men.

But President Lincoln was a great man, and one of the things that made him great was his tremendous humanity. He made enemies during and after the Civil War by refusing to take harsh retaliation against the American citizens who were part of the former confederacy.

There is a story, reported in Paw Prints, that “During the Civil War Lincoln had occasion at an official reception to refer to the Southerners as erring human beings rather than as enemies to be exterminated. An elderly lady, a fiery patriot, rebuked him for speaking kindly of his enemies when he ought to be thinking of destroying them. “Why, madam,” said Lincoln, “do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

KEEP PLANTS WATERED

Extreme cold dries out the air inside and outside our houses. Unless your home boasts an effective humidifier, that dry air has a bad effect on human complexions, and also causes house plants to need more water. Don’t forget to check them often.

Incidentally, a good humidifier is an excellent investment for protecting our homes, furnishings and ourselves. Maintaining proper humidity even helps prevent colds and flu, or ease the symptoms if we do get a bug.

KEEP YOURSELF WATERED

Scientists at the University of Connecticut Health Center have found that correcting mild dehydration can boost levels of serotonin (the feel good brain chemical) and enhance energy production in cells. Most of us tend to not drink enough water, and sometimes a diuretic like coffee or cola does more harm than good.

One suggestion to get yourself going in the morning is to keep a glass of water at your bedside and drink it as soon as you get up. This is said to get the brain working and give you more energy all day long.

PUPPY PAWS

This cold weather can be miserable for good old Fido. He has to walk barefoot on icy, salted streets and sidewalks, unless he’s lucky enough to live in the country, and then he just walks on jaggedy ice, sticks and crunchy snow. Either way, the paws can suffer.

Pet experts say rubbing a thin layer of petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) on his paw pads just before going for a walk helps protect them. When he comes back inside, wipe the paws with a warm washcloth and then apply a thin layer of hand lotion to keep the pads supple.

HOUSEBOUND

Being housebound by the cold forces some of us to actually clean things we might not consider doing otherwise, for example we might fret over stained garments and table linens that we set aside last summer when there were better things to do outdoors.

Homemade stain removers can save many, many dollars and get things good as new.

For starters, if the fabric is supposed to be snow white, take advantage of the snow. Launder white garments and then let them hang in snowy, cold sunshine for a week or so and they’ll get as white as the snow around them.

Other stains can be treated with homemade mixtures that cost pennies, not dollars.

For oil based stains, mix a quarter cup of castile soap, a quarter cup of fresh lemon juice, and 20 ounces of club soda (seltzer) in a 24-ounce spray bottle and shake well. Then spray it on before laundering in the hottest water the garment can handle.

For dye based stains, like those from beets, berries, tomato juice, etc., mix 2 tablespoons Borax, a cup of water and a cup and a half of white vinegar in a 24-ounce spray bottle. Spray, let sit a bit (but not until it dries) and then launder. The acid in the vinegar dissolves dye pigments, the Borax loosens it from the fibers, and the water washes it away.

For “What happened here?” stains, mix this all purpose stain remover: Mix 2 tablespoons baking soda, a quarter cup hydrogen peroxide, and a quarter cup of liquid dishwashing soap in a 24-ounce spray bottle, add water to fill, shake well and spray on. Same as with the others, spray, rest, and then launder.

CONVERSATION STUDIES

Just read results of a study showing that people devote 60 percent of their conversation time to talking about themselves.

Now, let’s see. You and I converse for an hour. During that 60 minutes I spent 40 minutes talking about myself, and you spent 40 minutes talking about yourself. Were we both talking at the same time for 20 of those minutes. And wasn’t anybody listening???

Don’t dispute that given our druthers, we’d prefer that 40 per cent of everyone’s interest be centered on us, but the math just doesn’t work out!

ON THE SOAP BOX

INCREDIBLE! MORE REGULATIONS!


Find it absolutely incredible that with most of this country shivering in the coldest winter in decades, and facing fuel and electric shortages from all sides, that person who lives in the White House dares to suggest imposing more limits on production of fuel and electricity! And since he warned us in his State of the Union address that if Congress doesn’t go along with his harebrained schemes he’ll just do it himself with his Magic Presidential Pen, it just might happen, without Congressional approval.

Since he seems to not be concerned about limits the Constitution puts on his power for unilateral decisions, it just might come to impeachment. If Congress has the courage. If not, Heaven help us all!

Meanwhile, top economic advisors with no particular political affiliations are warning that the United States is rapidly becoming a Third World Country. Our infrastructure is lagging sadly behind the rest of the world, largely because, regardless which party occupies the White House or controls the Congress, there is no durable, dependable energy policy.

Rules can change with the next election. Regulators, unhampered by election results, can demand that energy plants either meet guidelines for which no technology exists or shut down.

So financiers are understandably afraid to invest the dollars needed for energy to keep our homes, businesses and industries running.

Put millions into a new coal powered electric plant when a Presidential order can shut it down next week? Not likely.

Invest in nuclear power? Won’t happen.

What about nice, clean, renewable energy - namely hydroelectric? Nope. So-called conservationists put a stop to that. Claim it harms the fish and wildlife. (Never mind that fish and wildlife seem to thrive wherever dams have been built in the past.)

Windmills? Nope. Birds might fly into those revolving blades. Any bird that dumb should be removed from the gene pool anyway.

Solar Power? They haven’t found a reason to fight that yet, but they will.

Oil pipeline? Might interfere with migrating herds of something, or maybe it will warm the permafrost.

Can’t the reasonable folks in this once great nation find some way to ignore the agitators and guarantee financiers that tomorrow’s ill begotten regulations won’t rob them of the investments they made today. If they can do that, we might get this nation back on the path to prosperity.

Once upon a time utilities were the safest investment around, and thanks to that we have been enjoying a quality of life that would never happen under today’s rules. We complain about electric bills, but they really are an incredible value for the dollars we spend.

Do we really want to get to a point where electricity, gasoline, propane and diesel fuel are rationed, to be distributed only on the whim of the Party in Power? Check with the experts. That time is coming fast. We need to do whatever it takes to stop this regulatory insanity before it really is too late!

GLOBAL WARMING

Heard there is a move afoot to make former Vice President Al Gore return his Nobel Peace Prize. Turns out the Global Warming he invented didn’t work after all.

SUPER BOWL

Super Bowl 2014 is over, officially ending football season for a few months. Our Green Bay Packers weren’t in it this year, so the outcome didn’t generate much excitement in our immediate circle. However, some folks take not caring to extremes. Friend who hates football, whether it’s the Packers or someone else. She didn’t watch the big game, or any other game for that matter. Claims her idea of a Super Bowl is a toilet that cleans itself.

COOKIN’ TIME

If you’re using the oven, cook an entire meal at one time. In fact, plan ahead and cook dinner for tomorrow, too, so you just have to nuke when the family gathers. (Or when you get hungry, whichever comes first.)

GARLIC ROASTED VEGETABLES

Company special and almost too easy. Do these when the oven is on anyway.

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 cloves garlic, not peeled

2 large parsnips (or one rutabaga)

1 sweet or red onion

4 small Yukon Gold potatoes

1/2 pound carrots

1 cup quartered brussels sprouts

2 zucchini

2 yellow squash

Slice parsnips or rutabaga and onion, Cut potatoes and carrots into bite-size chunks and cut the Brussels Sprouts in half. Slice the squashes. (Feel free to mix and match with other vegetables if you prefer. Mushrooms are really good in this.) Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet with sides toss the garlic, pepper, parsnips and/or rutabaga, onion, potatoes and carrots with three tablespoons of the olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, add the squash slices and Brussels Sprouts and toss again. Return to oven and bake for 20 more minutes, or until the vegetables are all fork tender. Remove the garlic and put the rest of the veggies into a serving dish large enough to toss them around a bit. Slip the peel off the garlic and mash it into the remaining oil. Toss with the veggies, season to taste with salt and pepper, and then enjoy.

CHOCOLATE CHERRY POKE CAKE

Whether you’re thinking Valentine’s Day or George President’s Day, this incredibly easy dessert fills the bill. No need to use precious cooking fuel, either.

1 loaf (16 ounces) frozen pound cake, thawed

3/4 cup boiling water

1 package (3 ounces) cherry flavor gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

1 ounce semisweet chocolate

2 cups thawed whipped topping, divided

1 1/2 cups cherry pie filling, divided

Buy the kind of cake that comes in a foil baking pan. Remove foil lid from cake package. Do not remove cake from the pan. Pierce cake with skewer at 1/2-inch intervals, poking skewer through cake to bottom of pan. Add boiling water to gelatin mix in small bowl; stir for two minutes, until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water; pour over cake. Refrigerate 1 hour. Meanwhile, make curls from semisweet chocolate. (See tip below.) Invert cake onto platter. Cut cake horizontally in half. Spread bottom half of cake with 1/3 cup COOL WHIP; cover with 1 cup pie filling and top cake layer. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining whipped topping. Garnish with remaining pie filling and chocolate curls.

To Make Chocolate Curls: Microwave chocolate on HIGH a few seconds to warm it slightly. Draw vegetable peeler slowly over flat bottom of chocolate to form thin curls. Place on waxed paper-covered plate. Refrigerate until ready to use. Make up to 12 hours ahead of time.

NO-WHEAT MINI CAKES

For whatever reasons, lots of folks these days seem to be plagued with wheat sensitivities, or are on gluten-free diets, doctor’s orders. Finding treats they can enjoy is a real challenge. But it can be done, and these little cakes are proof. Take a trip to the health foods store, and then bake some for your Valentine. P.S. Don’t be afraid to share with those who aren’t gluten-sensitive. They’re too good to keep to yourself! You’ll need mini-Bundt pans, or those cute mini angel food cake pans.

1 1/2 cups almond meal

1 cup coconut flour

1/3 cup Xylitol sweetener

1/4 cup golden flaxseed meal

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 large eggs

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

2 teaspoons almond extract

1/2 cup sour cream

2 to 3 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Red ripe strawberries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the first eight ingredients, then stir in the eggs, coconut oil and almond extract until blended. Divide evenly into 8 greased mini-Bundt pans. Bake for 15 minutes or until the toothpick test shows them done. Let cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire cooling rack. Turn right side up on serving plate after they cool. Mix together the sour cream, honey and vanilla and drizzle over the cakes. Pile nice ripe strawberries in the center.

P.S. You can make almond flour by totally pulverizing dry roasted almonds in your food processor. I believe you can do the same to get flaxseed meal from whole flaxseeds, but not sure about the coconut flour.

If you want to share a gluten-free toast, most wines are wheat free, and so are pure fruit juices. Also Kahlua and Amaretto are wheat free. Not so for whiskey, some vodkas, and most beers, though, so best avoid them.

Thought for the Week: No matter the problems you face, look at the bright side, and seek the humor. As Michael Pritchard once said, “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.” That said, except for those with dementia, all of us have to get older, but none of us have to get old. That’s a choice!

(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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