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Country Cousin

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Hi Folks!

What fine weather we’re enjoying. A few hot, muggy times, but mostly warm enough to be outdoors and cool enough to enjoy it. Fall is definitely in the air. Feel it even on a warm, sunny afternoon, but especially at night. Leaves on a few trees were already starting to turn colors a week ago.

Labor Day, our last big Summer holiday weekend, is upon us. Schools that haven’t already resumed classes for the season will be doing that on Tuesday.

HIDE AND SEEK

Speaking of school, ever read, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? It’s nearly 30 years old now. The thoughts won’t go out of date, but the memories that lead to them have, sadly. Author Robert Fulghum wrote in one brief chapter about the old neighborhood game of Hide and Seek, where all the kids in the neighborhood would join in the fun on a late summer evening.

In our neighborhood in Marinette games like that were common, along with Take Away, One O’Clock and the Ghost Ain’t Here, good old Tag, and others of similar nature.

We’d all join in, often playing through the neighborhood until well after dark. None of the neighbors complained, even those without kids of their own. If we knew there was a grumpy neighbor who cared more about his yard than about kids having fun, we’d just stay away. No problem. Our parents never worried, and nothing bad ever happened.

Nothing bad except, as Fulghum wrote, sometimes when a kid hid too well and couldn’t be found the others gave up hunting and he was left to come out on his own. Then he’d be mad because the others quit looking for him, and they’d be mad because he somehow broke the rules for hiding.

Fulghum said there was a better game than Hide and Seek. It was called Sardines. We didn’t know about in Marinette, at least not in our neighborhood. Too bad. Sounds like fun.

In Sardines, the person who is It goes and hides, and everybody goes looking for him. When you find him, you get in with him (quietly) and hide there with him. Pretty soon everybody is hiding together, all stacked in a small space like puppies in a pile. And pretty soon somebody giggles and somebody laughs and everybody gets found, according to Fulghum.

PETS PLAY TOO

Hide and Seek, by the way, must be a natural instinct.

When we were kids, our mother would sometimes share in the fun with us. She was pretty small, and could hide in some really unexpected places. We all had a good time, and we never gave up without finding her.

Later, our most wonderful dog, a German Shepherd named Chum, was very good at the game. He and our son Tom played together a lot.

I’d shut Chum in the bedroom while Tom hid. Then I’d let the dog out, he’d find the child, and the cycle would be repeated. Except one day, we couldn’t find Chum when it was time for him to go back in the bedroom for the next round. We hunted. Finally Chum gave a quiet little yip. There he was, hiding behind the couch.

We understood. After that they took turns.

Neighbors who share their home with a half grown cat were recently visited by a small great grandchild. The cat and child occupied themselves by playing Tag all over the house. When one would tire they’d rest for a bit, but sooner or later cat would start chasing child, or vice versa, and the game would be on again. They both loved it. And somehow, the child understood not to squash the kitten, and the kitten understood not to scratch the child. Too bad how often things like that change when we get older!

TAX TIME

During the early months of each year, most everyone in America worries about filing and paying their taxes.

Maybe we should start thinking - and acting - sooner, like at election time when it comes to state and federal taxes, and during the next two or three months for property taxes levied by school districts, counties and municipalities.

Between now and November, County Boards will be finalizing their budgets and the taxes they will levy to support them. There is time for public comment at the November Budget Hearing, but no matter how convincing your words, that is probably too late to do anything about it. By then, numbers have been crunched and minds have been made up.

If there are services you would do without in return for lower taxes, call your County Board supervisor now and say so. Ditto if you want more services and are willing to pay for them.

Town boards and school boards will be holding their annual meetings also. There is a little better chance of changing things at school and town annual meetings. Not a lot, but maybe a little is better than nothing. Call your elected representatives. Go to the meetings and speak your piece. If you want spending cuts, say so. If you’re willing to give up services, say so. If you want more services,or different services, for your tax dollars, speak up.

Village and city governments also are crafting their 2015 budgets right now. Talk to the people who serve on them.

If you want your local government to quit imposing new regulations and then telling you that enforcing them is a service you need to pay for, tell them so.

In these days of rampant inflation and stagnant pay checks, money is hard for all of us to come by, and that includes local governments. They cannot print their own like the folks in Washington.

To do a good job for all of us, elected people in local government and school offices need to know what we want them to do and why. Laws have been manipulated so in general we cannot directly impose our will, but we can at least still speak out and let our will be known.

You may or may not be able to change things for 2015 taxes, but when even a few bother to attend meetings and speak up, their words are noticed and remembered. Sometimes elected officials heed them all through the coming year.

My own personal message regarding taxes is: Please, please, at all levels of government, quit trying to do things for me that I could do better for myself. I’d rather spend my own money. Use taxes for only the basic services that we can’t do individually. Provide good roads, nice parks, reliable police and fire protection, fair courts to settle disputes, garbage disposal, water and sewer service where appropriate, basic education. That’s it. No more money for propaganda, zoning, building inspections, free lunches. Keep it simple.

Back in the early days of the Old Testament, when government and church were pretty much one and the same, God prescribed 10 percent as the amount each family or individual should contribute. Despite that small share, called a tithe, temples were beautiful and kings and high priests seemed to live very well indeed. Maybe we’d have been wise to let God keep running things.

Today, according to calculations made by more than one publication, the common man pays about one-third of every dollar he or she earns for taxes, licenses, permits and fees. That’s not counting the amount corporate taxes add to the prices we pay for goods and services.

At board meetings for all levels of local governments we hear complaints about the state-imposed tax levy limits in Wisconsin, and how hard it is to balance budgets because of them. So they find ways around them, like borrowing, like imposing fees for services that used to be free. And then claim they didn’t raise taxes.

All I can say, after listening, is Thank Goodness those levy limits exist! Where would our taxes be by now without them?

COOKIN’ TIME

We need to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables every chance we get. The season is way, way too short!

GREEN EGGS FRITATA

Use any kind of greens, even dandelions. But if you do use dandelions, choose the smooth ones, not the hairy lion’s tooth variety. We won’t be able to make this fresh from the lawn or garden much longer this year, so if you want to try it, do it now. Make it a Green and Gold Fritata by adding slices of yellow cheddar cheese, pinwheel fashion, to the top just before it goes into the oven. Serves 4. This is even good made in advance and then heated in the microwave for a quick breakfast on a busy morning. Add some diced ham and you have green eggs and ham.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large or 2 small white potatoes, skin on and finely diced

(no larger than 1/4-inch; 1 1/2 cups total)

1 garlic clove, smashed and chopped

Salt

1 to 2 bunches (4 cups, trimmed, sliced and loosely packed) turnip or other greens, stems discarded and leaves sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch strips (you should have 4 cups loosely packed sliced greens)

8 eggs, lightly beaten

Coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Clean the greens, remove any tough stems, rinse and then drain well. Scrub the potatoes (peel if you must) and chop them. The food processor works very well for this. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Warm the oil in a large skillet. Add the potatoes and cook over medium high heat until browned on the edges and soft in the center. Add the garlic and season with salt after the potatoes have been cooking for 2 minutes. Stir in the greens and cook until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Beat the eggs with salt and pepper. Pour them into the pan, but don’t stir. Sprinkle on the Parmesan and add the cheddar if you’re using it. I like to dot on some butter, too. Transfer to the oven. Bake until the frittata is just set, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

RAW BROCCOLI SALAD

Makes six half-cup servings. And it does keep for a day or three. Use real sugar if you aren’t looking at carbs.

4 cups broccoli florets or broccolini

1/4 cup red onion, minced

2 tablespoons SPLENDA No Calorie Sweetener,

Granulated

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, roasted and salted

3 tablespoons seedless raisins

Finely chop florets or broccolini. Set aside. (Save the stems to peel and slice for stir fry or other good uses.) Place remaining ingredients in serving bowl and mix well. Add broccoli florets or broccolini. Toss until coated. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

GRILLED ZUCCHINI PARMESAN

Absolutely easy! Great go-with for steak or fish on the grill. Not using the grill? Simply bake in a 350 degree oven until done as you like it, preferably on a rack over a pan to catch the drippings. Recipe says it serves four, but that depends on appetites, and the size of the zucchini.

3 medium zucchini

3 tablespoons butter, softened

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat, and lightly oil the grate. Cut the zucchini in half crosswise, then slice each half into 3 slices lengthwise, making 6 slices per zucchini. Mix the butter, garlic, and parsley in a bowl, and spread the mixture on both sides of each zucchini slice. Sprinkle one side of each slice with Parmesan cheese, and place the slices, cheese sides up, crosswise on the preheated grill to keep them from falling through. Grill the zucchini until the cheese has melted and the slices are cooked through and show grill marks, about 8 minutes.

MAKING FRUIT SALAD?

Under ripe fruit can be ripened most efficiently in a brown paper bag. Place the fruit in the bag, being careful to not crowd it. Let stand at room temperature in a cool dry place until fruit reaches the desired ripeness, turning the bag over each day to allow even ripening of the fruit. The same method will help ripen tomatoes.

EASY CAPRESE SALAD

Finally tomatoes are here, at least sort of. Take advantage with this great end of summer salad for Labor Day outings. Needs to be made at least an hour ahead, but a day ahead won’t hurt. Pack in a jar if you’re going on a picnic. Just shake it again when you get there, and then serve right from the jar.

6 tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more to

taste

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

6 leaves fresh basil, cut into slivers

1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into

bite-size cubes

salt and ground black pepper to taste

Stir tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and basil together in a large salad bowl. Toss in mozzarella cheese. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Chill for an hour or more before serving.

CANDY APPLE SALAD

4 cups Granny Smith apple - peeled,

cored and chopped

1/2 cup white sugar

1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, with

juice

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped

topping, thawed

1 cup coarsely chopped dry roasted

peanuts

Directions:

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the egg, flour, sugar, vinegar and pineapple. Cook until thick, about 6 minutes. Set aside until completely cool.

2. In a large serving bowl, fold together the pineapple mixture and whipped topping. Carefully mix in the apples and 1/2 cup of peanuts. Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.

EASY APPLE SALAD

Serves four. Great with just about anything off the grill, but especially pork or poultry.

Ingredients:

4 tart green apples, cored and chopped

1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds,

toasted

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup chopped dried cherries

1 (8 ounce) container vanilla yogurt

In a medium serving bowl, stir together the apples, almonds, cranberries, cherries and yogurt until evenly coated. Chill for a couple of hours or serve at once.

LEMON OR KEY LIME PIE

This is incredibly easy and exquisitely delicious. Perfect ending for a summer meal. One pie serves eight, as it is very rich. To get more juice, have lemons or limes at room temperature before squeezing.

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoons grated lemon or lime zest

(14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

2/3 cup fresh (preferable) or bottled lemon or Key lime juice (about 24 to 30 Key limes)1 purchased or homemade 9-inch graham cracker crust

Sweetened whipped cream or frozen whipped topping for

garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake graham cracker crust for about 10 minutes while you prepare the filling. Place egg yolks and lemon or lime zest in a non reactive bowl and beat on high speed about 5 minutes, until the mixture is very glossy. Add sweetened condensed milk in a steady stream and beat until thickened, another 3 to 4 minutes. Fold in lemon or lime juice, gently but thoroughly. Pour the lime custard into the prepared graham cracker crust. Bake about 15 minutes, or until filling has barely set. Remove from oven and let slowly cool until it is room temperature. Refrigerate. Dollop on whipped cream before serving. If you think of it, place the pie in the freezer about 15 to 20 minutes before serving time. Do not leave it there long enough to freeze.

Thought for the week: God grant me a weekend to make bearable what I can’t change, friends to make days funny and sunny, and the wisdom to never get my knickers in a knot because it solves nothing and makes me walk funny.

(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 715-291-9002 or by e-mail to shirleyprudhommechickadee@yahoo. com.)

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