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

Penny...

Hi Folks!

The cold eased a bit this week, so we’ve been having snow. The snow may even warm up enough to make snowballs possible. But not to worry. The Big Bad Weatherman says the cold is coming back. Right after the freezing rain he’s got in store for Thursday. At least this isn’t a Leap Year. Just one more week and February will finally be over!

God promised he would never again clean up the world with a flood, but He never promised He wouldn’t freeze us out.

On the bright side, in just one month, according to the calendar, Spring will be officially here. Maybe not really, but officially. Predictions from one town official are that their annual Spring Cleanup Day may happen in mid-August. A more optimistic Local Official expects the snowbanks will be gone slightly before Independence Day, and maybe they can stop plowing by then too. On the other hand, there is that old Norse legend about the year Spring never came at all.

WATER LEVELS

There really is a bright side to all the cold though. Four of the five Great Lakes are now frozen over. Scientists say that fact will slow or stop evaporation until the ice leaves. That, plus the volumes of snow this winter and the late season rains last fall should do much to bring all lakes, rivers and streams back to their normal levels.

JUST HOW COLD?

Heard in one place Starbucks has been serving coffee on a stick.

When we milked the cows, we got ice cream! When we milked the brown cows - we got chocolate ice cream!

Fellow out on one of the Candlelight Ski Hikes claims it was so cold that words froze in the air. If you wanted to hear what someone said, you had to grab a handful of sentences and take them over by the fire!

PRESIDENT’S DAY

Our nation used to set aside a whole dayFeb. 22to honor George Washington, the man more responsible than any other for making the United States of America a role model in what became a worldwide quest for freedom. He truly was the Father of our country.

He led a rag-tag army of Colonists to victory over Britain, the most powerful country in the world of that day. He presided over the Constitutional Convention that invented the American form of government. He was offered the position of king, but he refused. He set his own term limits, determining that two four terms was enough.

There also was a special day set aside for Abraham Lincoln - February 12. Lincoln was the President whose strength of character kept this nation from disintegrating in the Civil War. Had he not been killed prematurely, he would have prevented the punitive actions that almost destroyed the remains of the rebel states after that war.

But a few years back, in its infinite wisdom, our Congress decided to designate instead President’s Day, halfway in between. In theory, we are supposed to honor all past and present presidents on that day. In reality, some of them do not deserve to be honored.

Let’s save our honors for those who deserve to be honored!

FATHER OF OUR COUNTRY

We have this picture of George Washington as an aristocrat, who led a soft life with slaves to wait on him and never a lick of real work to do. This in contrast to Abe Lincoln, who was a poor boy who grew up in a log cabin and split rails to earn his way through law school.

In reality, Washington’s early years were not that easy, according to most biographers. His brother married into a wealthy family, and the young George Washington benefitted from that Association. He was educated, but he never went to college. As a young man, probably still in his teens, he joined a survey crew working its way into the unexplored wilderness of the American continent and paving the way for settlers who would follow. There were no hotels or homes to stay at, and no roads to follow. The survey crews traveled through trackless wilderness and camped in the forest for months on end, with none of the benefits of civilization. That was how young George Washington spent some of his early manhood years

Easy? Absolutely not! He was no stranger to hard work. But surely those months in the forest prepared him for the months he would spend later in camps of the Continental Army, often short of food and supplies. All reports are that his men adored him.

As one biographer wrote, “George Washington is an American hero whose fame is not wholly accounted for by the record of his life. Like Lincoln, the man was infinitely greater than anything he did. A military genius, he wrested liberty from tyranny; a statesman, he helped evolve a stable government from political chaos; a patriot, he refused a crown. Wisdom, patience, tolerance, courage, consecration to the righteous cause animated his every act. Ingratitude, injustice and treachery never embittered him, but served to strengthen his character. He grew in dignity and in capacity to the need of his growing responsibility and power, but he never became arrogant and ambition and opportunity never tempted him from the narrow path of honor.”

Washington had no children of his own. There were two stepchildren and two step-grandchildren. But this entire nation was his child, and the American Dream was his legacy to the world. We need to take better care of it.

If some of the quotes attributed to him are true, Washington had a fine sense of humor as well as an appreciation of leadership. One of the quotes: “An army of asses led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by an ass.”

Incidentally, George Washington is the only United States President ever unanimously elected.

He is the only president who never lived in the White , and he also never lived in Washington, DC, but he helped design it. Washington did his own bookkeeping and recorded every penny of expense or profit. His ledgers still exist today.

There were 13 stars on the United States flag when Washington became President in 1789. Five states were added before he left office eight years later. They were North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee.

By the time Washington became president at age 57, he had only one real tooth left. Maybe that’s why he’s looking so solemn on all the pictures we see of him. Didn’t want to be seen smiling. He had many sets of false teeth, though.

Incidentally, Ben Franklin, Washington’s contemporary and another of the Founding Fathers, is credited with creating original sets of false teeth. Carved his own out of wood! He was a jeweler and silversmith. Wonder why he didn’t think of casting teeth for himself?

A PENNY SAVED

Ben Franklin is credited with coining the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” in his “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”

True then, and true now, but in today’s world it’s getting harder and harder to save as inflation gets worse and worse, and particularly this winter with sky high heating bills.

But most of us can find ways to trim the fat from our budgets instead of running up the balance on credit cards that will have to be paid for later.

Car pool. Walk when you can, or at least consolidate chores to limit the number of times your vehicle leaves the yard.

Live off the hump. Use up leftovers. If you can’t afford to buy what you want for dinner, check pantry, fridge and freezer and think of something good to make with food you already have on hand.

For example, if something breaks and you don’t have the money to fix right now, or if you’re out of something and you don’t have the money to buy more, figure out a way to live without it.

If the snow blower breaks, can you borrow one from a friend? Or simply use a snow shovel.

If your washer breaks, go to the laundromat.

If your dryer breaks, use clotheslines - indoors or out, depending on the weather.

If you break your tea kettle, use a saucepan to heat water.

In most instances, you can find a way to make do until you have the cash saved up, find one at a yard sale or thrift shop, or get one as a gift.

Also learn to say “no” when kids start the “Mama, buy me” chant. And learn to do things for free. Get videos, books and games from the library. Play family games - board games, card games, guessing games. You may be very pleasantly surprised at just how much fun that can be!

HOE CAKES

We often make cherry desserts to honor George Washington, due to that story about him chopping down the cherry tree and not being able to tell a lie. Turns out that story was totally made up by a teacher - to teach her students the virtue of honesty! Maybe she should have practice a bit of honesty herself.

Anyway, since cherries don’t have any real connection to Washington, this year, consider making hoecakes. Those cornmeal pancakes, “swimming in butter and honey” were his breakfast nearly every morning at his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia, according to his step-granddaughter Nelly Custis.

Hoecakes were originally a mainstay of field hands, who actually did cook them on their hoes. They also were popular with early frontiersmen like Washington because they didn’t require ovens and did very well over open camp fires.

President Abe Lincoln too was said to be fond of hoecakes, and supposedly bragged that he could eat them, “twice as fast as anyone could make them.” Honest Abe was probably exaggerating, but try a stack of hoecakes warm and dense and slathered with butter and honey or maple syrup, and you’ll see why. See recipe below.

COOKIN’ TIME

Made thick, the batter could be cooked on a hoe over an open fire. It’s better to use a frying pan or griddle! Do serve them with eggs and/or breakfast meat for protein to keep your body’s insulin busy after all the carbs have worn off. Good with applesauce too.

WHITE HOUSE HOECAKES

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 large eggs

5 tablespoons corn oil, plus more if needed

1. Stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add buttermilk, eggs, and 4 tablespoons oil; whisk until smooth. Heat a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add remaining tablespoon oil; swirl to coat, and heat until a drop of batter sizzles upon contact. Working in batches, pour 1/3 cup batter per cake into skillet. Cook, turning once, until golden and cooked through, about 4 minutes. (Little bubbles will appear and break on the top side when the cakes are ready to be turned.) Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil as needed. Reduce heat if sides brown too quickly). Serve immediately, topped with butter and honey.

BEER BRAISED BRATS ‘N’ CABBAGE

Quick cooking old-fashioned winter comfort food. Serve with corn bread to sop up the good juices.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 bratwurst

1 onion, halved and sliced

1 (12-ounce) bottle pilsner-style beer

1/2 medium head Savoy cabbage, sliced

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish

2 tablespoons butter

Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add bratwurst and cook, turning, until browned on all sides. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add beer, cabbage, and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until cabbage is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve with cornbread.

BEER BRAISED PORK BUTT

Pork and chicken are usually the most reasonably priced meats on the market today, and Boston Butt is an economical cut. Try this delicious version and you might not miss roast beef, or at least not as much as much.

1 boneless Boston pork butt (5 pounds)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 stalks celery, diced

2 medium onions, diced

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 plum tomato, diced

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

4 bottles dark beer (12 ounces each), preferably Guinness

stout

1 baking or Idaho potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 parsnips, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1/2 cup chopped parsley, for garnish

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Rub pork butt with oil, and season liberally with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, place meat, fat side down. Brown each side for about 5 minutes. Remove meat from pot, and pour off most of the remaining fat, reserving enough to saut the celery, onions, and garlic until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add tomato, and deglaze the pot with balsamic vinegar. Pour in beer, and return meat to pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat, and cover. Transfer to oven for 3 hours. After 3 hours, remove pot from oven, and skim off any excess fat. Add remaining vegetables, and cover. Return to oven for 45 to 60 minutes. When finished cooking, the meat and vegetables should be fork tender. To serve, slice meat across the grain. Arrange meat slices on platter with vegetables, and sprinkle with parsley.

HEALTH NUT COOKIES

No gluten and no sugar in these naturally sweet cookies, but lots of carbs anyway. Lots of other natural nutrition too. One or two of these cookies with a glass of milk would make an extremely suitable replacement for a bowl of dry breakfast cereal, and easy to eat on the run. Again, some of us do not react well to straight carbs for breakfast, so eat a piece of cheese or something s well. Better yet, enjoy the cookies and milk as an afternoon snack. To save on fuel, mix up the batter ahead of time, and bake the cookies when the oven is already hot from baking something else. They’ll last several days in the cookie jar if you can keep them that long.

3 bananas, ripe

1/2 cup canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

1/4 cup prunes, dried, pitted, no sugar added, chopped

1 cup yellow raisins

2 cups oatmeal, plain old-fashioned whole oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl mash bananas. Mix in oil, vanilla, nuts, prunes and raisins. Stir until well mixed. Drop mixture onto a parchment covered cookie sheet. Slightly push down each cookie with fingers to lightly flatten. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool at least a bit before serving.

Thought For the Week: George Washington is credited with passing along many words of wisdom, among them: “in politics as in religion, my tenets are few and simple. The leading one of which, and indeed that which embraces most others, is to be honest and just ourselves and to exact if from others, meddling as little as possible in their affairs where our own are not involved. If this maxim was generally adopted, wars would cease and our swords would soon be converted into reap hooks and our harvests be more peaceful, abundant and happy.” He also advised that is better by far to be alone than to be in bad company, but perhaps his most important advice is, “Make sure you’re doing what God wants you to do, and then do it with all your heart!”

(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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