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

Hearts...

Hi Folks!

Sad news folks! Don’t know for sure what was happening elsewhere in this country, but here in TIMESland, Groundhog Day dawned bright and sunny, and it is a certainty if that weather prognosticating little rodent poked his furry head out at all, he saw his shadow.

That, as we all must know by now, means we’re in for six more weeks of Winter.

Whether Puxatawny Phil saw his shadow or not, it’s almost a certainty for us here in the Frozen Northland that Winter will hang around for at least another six weeks. After all, that would be only the middle of March. Will winter end then?

Or does seeing that shadow mean Friend Woodchuck will sleep six weeks beyond his regular wakeup day?

March 21 is the official first day of Spring. An extra six weeks added to that could mean we won’t see Spring up here until early May! Certainly hope that’s not the case.

GLOBAL COOLING?

Remember all the sentimental talk about the cold winters we used to have, and the snow that used to fall? Remember last year, when the global warming gloom and doomers seemed convinced that Planet Earth had seen the last of old fashioned winters.

Well, Winter seems to be making a comeback. Look at the snow banks. Look at the thermometers. Should we celebrate? I’d rather have it warmer, thank you!

On the other hand, rain and snow this winter may mean water levels in the Great Lakes will rise again, and that would be a very, very good thing.

TINTED GLASSES

Speaking of nasty weather, was stuck driving home during the worst part of the storm last week. Could hardly see the road. Then, in the midst of it, the driver’s side wiper blade stuck in a heavy ice clump that ripped the rubber nearly off. Between swirling snow mixed with mist or whatever the whiteout was, and viewing the world through a sloppy and wet windshield, almost despaired of making it home alive. Couldn’t even see enough to find a safe spot to pull off. Plodded along, following what I could see of the last vehicle’s tire tracks, and praying for the best.

Then remembered a bit of advice heard years ago, but never really heeded. To improve vision in heavy fog or snow, put on amber tinted sun glasses. Happened to have a pair in the console.

Amazing! They worked. Images were still blurred and watery, but there was at least enough contrast to tell where the road was and where it was not. Guess sun glasses aren’t only for sunny days.

HEARTS AND FLOWERS

Valentine’s Day is coming on fast. Give some thought to how you can make your Significant Other feel special. Some-times a single yellow rose means more than a whole bouquet of red ones. Perhaps the man in your life would like a cup of coffee before the morning alarm goes off.

If they’re old enough, send the kids to the movies so the two of you can have a romantic dinner at home.

Have aging parents? If Mom is too often confined to the house, take her out to lunch. Or bring a special lunch to her. Ditto for Dad.

Bake up a special treat for the whole family. If yours is the kind of family that could do it without danger of flying brickbats, do a round robin at the dinner table, where each family member has to name something they love about the person next to them.

SPACE ROCK

Between sunset on Friday, Feb. 15 and sunrise the next morning, a giant space rock about a quarter the size of a football field - Earth Asteroid 2012 DA14 - will hurtle harmlessly past the Earth, and most of us won’t even know it happened.

Scientists estimate the space rock will come within 17,500 miles of Earth. That’s closer than many satellites and whole lot closer than the moon, which is about 240,000 miles away.

Scientists with powerful equipment will be able to see the clump of space rock as it hurtles by, but it will be just barely visible to the naked eye from Earth for a brief time. Scientists say it will have no effect on tides or atmosphere or anything else on earth.

If this asteroid or a similar one did hit, it wouldn’t destroy the earth, just a small area around the point of impact. If it landed in an ocean, NASA scientists predict nothing serious would happen at all, except perhaps a really big wave.

Next visit will be in 2020, but NASA scientists assure us the asteroid won’t hit Earth then, either. And if it did seem to be coming in too late for comfort, scientists have the technology today to send up a rocket and drive it further out.

How’s that for a Star Wars theme?

BEER BUILDING

The Royal Mount Pavilion in Henderson, Nevada takes recycling to new heights. Literally.

The exterior of the beautiful 30,000 square foot building is built from the remains of more than 500,000 glass beer and booze bottles collected from hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

News sources say Scott McCombs, designer for Realm of Design, of which his wife, Cindy, is president, spent years developing a way to combine crushed, recycled glass with fly ash, which is a by-product, generally considered a waste, from coal-burning power plants. McCombs says they call the resulting building product “GreenStone.” She describes it as a concrete substitute that acts like stone, can be used in any number of ways, and is eco-friendly as well.

Gives a new focus to the idea of saving for a new house. Come on, fellas! Crack another beer! Can’t wait to move in!

“Four hundred ninety nine thousand bottles of beer in the wall....”

Seriously, the Middle Inlet Block Factory, back in the years either before World War II or just after it got started, was including crushed glass in its cement block formula. As a tiny youngster, used to be fascinated by the gemlike glitter of tiny flecks of red, green and blue glass in some of those blocks in Grandpa’s building and try to pick them out.

LENT IS COMING

By this time next week, Ash Wednesday will have come and gone, and hopefully preparations for Easter will be under way.

Cleaning the house and putting up decorations are fine things to do, but preparations should include some soul cleaning. Sort of dust the cobwebs off our faith and try to get back on track if things have gotten a bit lax.

Sounds easy, but sometimes if we’ve slipped into a soul slump it can be hard to get out.

Maybe the only way is to ask God for a boost up. If we ask hard enough, He will listen!

GOD WON’T ASK

This section is reprinted from an e-mail forwarded by a friend. It isn’t likely God will worry about the source, but He will probably be glad if we do some following through on the ideas.

“On Judgment Day:

“God won’t ask what kind of car you drove. He’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation of their own.

“God won’t ask the square footage of your house. He will ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

“God won’t ask about the clothes you have in your closet. He’ll ask how many you helped clothe.

“God won’t ask what your highest salary was. He will ask if you compromised your character to get it.

“God won’t ask what your job title was. He’ll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability, and if it was an honorable job to be doing.

“God won’t ask how many friends you had. He’ll ask how many people did you befriend.

“God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived. He’ll ask how you treated your neighbors.

God won’t ask about the color of your skin. He’ll ask about the content of your character.

God won’t ask why it took you so long to seek salvation. As long as you ask, as long as you sincerely repent whatever you may have done, He’ll lovingly take you into His arms and eventually lead you to your mansion in Heaven and not to the gates of Hell.”

SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY

President’s Day this year isn’t until Monday, Feb. 18. Not sure why they chose that date, except that it’s the Monday between the birthdays of President Abe Lincoln on Tuesday, Feb. 12, and George Washington on Friday, Feb. 22.

Would have been very appropriate if those misguided patriots who took away holidays honoring our nation’s two greatest presidents would have at least put the generic President’s Day on an historically meaningful date.

A good choice would have been Feb. 4, date of the first presidential election, when Washington supporters were chosen as electors in all states of the fledgling union.

Other good choices would have been April 1, when the electors chosen by each state gathered before the Continental Congress to formally cast their ballots. All 69 of them voted for Washington as our nation’s first president. Or April 30 of that year, when Washington was sworn in and our nation had a president for the very first time.

History instruction for most of us has been sorely lacking on how the first elections were handled, but they were far different than they are today.

Electors, generally the most influential and highly regarded men in each state, were chosen to select the President. The task was probably delegated because there was no telephone, telegraph, television, radio or national press to spread information and form public opinion. The electors were trusted to gather information and make their choices on behalf of other residents of their state.

Even the means of choosing electors varied. In some states they were elected by popular vote, in others they were appointed by the governor, and in still others they were chosen by the state legislature.

As nearly as I can understand it, those selected as electors were each to cast votes for two candidates, with the highest number of votes to determine the choice for president, and the second highest number the vice president. The electors gathered in their respective state capitals on Feb. 4, 1789 to cast their votes. In each state George Washington received a vote from every elector, with the second choices a bit scattered, but mostly for John Adams. That method of choosing a president was changed in 1804.

Everyone probably already knew that George Washington had won, but the votes were to be formally counted by the First Federal Congress at a meeting scheduled for March 4, 1789. They didn’t manage to get a quorum together until April 6. After the U.S. House and Senate organized on that day, they met in joint session to count the electoral votes and Washington was elected. John Adams placed second and was elected Vice President. A messenger was dispatched to inform Washington that he was the nation’s choice, and he traveled to New York, where he was sworn in on April 30.

FAMILIAR NAMES

It’s kind of ironic that the list people who received at least one vote in that first vice presidential election includes two very familiar surnames - Lincoln and Clinton. Someone more studious may know the answer. Was the George Clinton of New York in 1789 any relation to the Bill Clinton of today? Was Benjamin Lincoln who hailed from Maine an ancestor of the Abraham Lincoln our nation came to know and love nearly a century later?

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY

In addition to presidents, Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day and Lent, this month we can “celebrate” the 100th anniversary of that great American tradition - the income tax! The constitutional amendment that allowed an income tax in this one-time Land of the Free was ratified on Feb. 3, 1913. Freedom has been declining ever since.

The 16th Amendment - the one that allowed creation of an income tax - was championed by William Howard Taft and the first income tax was signed into law later that year by President Woodrow Wilson, who had pushed for passage of the Revenue Act of 1913.

That first income tax act was 14 pages long, and the entire federal tax code consisted of about 400 pages. The first 1040 form, three pages long, appeared in 1914.

Then came what probably ranks as the most explosive growth of any infection in American history.

Today, estimates put the federal tax code at more than 70,000 pages, and even the IRS admits nobody really knows for sure. A 2008 report estimated the tax code at more than 3.7 million words. But they can’t figure out a way to simplify it.

As Mark Twain said many years ago, when the American Income Tax was still relatively new, “The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.”

But there are those in the Federal Government who still spend their time figuring out how to take money away from those who work hard to earn it and give it to those who don’t. And we keep re-electing them. Thanks a lot, fellas!

COOKIN’ TIME

Lent traditionally calls for more meatless meals than usual, but that doesn’t mean they can’t taste good. Try this Seafood Chowder recipe. It’s so easy that it’s almost bound to become a family favorite.

EASY SEAFOOD CHOWDER

14 to 16 ounces thawed cod, halibut or pollack fillets

14 to 16 ounce package frozen hash browns with red

peppers and onions

1 cup thinly sliced celery

2 cups water

1 can evaporated milk

1 can condensed cream of potato soup

3/4 teaspoon crumbled dill weed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper, or to taste

1 tablespoon real butter

Cut the fish fillets into cubes. Put the potatoes and water on to boil in a saucepan that will hold at least 10 cups. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat and simmer, covered for about five minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the evaporated milk, potato soup, dill, salt and lemon pepper. Bring the mixture back to a boil and stir in the fish cubes and butter. Reduce heat and simmer three to five minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve immediately, garnished with more fresh dill or some thinly sliced green onion tops if you like. If you feel it’s too thick, thin with a little half and half. For variety, add some shrimp or crab meat when you add the fish. The recipe is easily doubled. Serve with crackers or hot, crusty bread.

CHERRY SQUARES

You can use almost any kind of canned pie filling you want with these - like apple, pineapple or blueberry - but they’re better and prettier made with cherry, and make a very fine Valentine’s Day treat.

1 C. butter

1 1/2 C. sugar

4 eggs, beaten

2 C. sifted flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. lemon or orange extract

1 can cherry pie filling

powdered sugar (for dusting on top after baking)

In large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add eggs and flour; mix in extract. Blend well. Spread batter into greased 15 1/2 x10 1/2 x 1 inch pan. Cut surface off batter to make 28 squares or any size you want. Spoon filling into center of each square. (During baking, dough puffs up around pie filling.) Bake 30 minutes, or until light brown. Cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

SKINNY SNOWMAN CHERRIES IN THE SNOW

Here’s a heart-healthy Valentine’s Day sweet for the one (or ones) you love. It’s not only low calorie, low fat and low carb, it’s luscious and lovely to look at.

1 sugar free angel food cake

2 sm. boxes sugar-free instant vanilla pudding

1 8 ounce container of sugar-free whipped topping

1 14 ounce bag of coconut flakes

1 small jar maraschino cherries

4 cups milk

More sugar-free whipped topping

Slice angel food cake and lay into a medium-size glass pan. Drizzle on some of the cherry juice. Prepare pudding mix with the 4 cups of milk. Add whipped topping to the pudding. Let set up for a few minutes. Pour pudding mixture on top of angel food slices in pan. Sprinkle coconut on top of the pudding mixture. Arrange cherries on top. Refrigerate overnight.

Thought for the Week: Choosing right over wrong, ethics over convenience, and truth over popularity ... These are the choices that measure your life. Travel the path of integrity without looking back, for there is never a wrong time to do the right thing. Unknown authors, quoted by Menominee County Sheriff Kenny Marks.

COUNTRY COUSIN


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