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

Smile...

Hi Folks!

Spring officially arrived last week, in case no one has noticed. On Wednesday, March 19, the last official day of Winter, there was actually snow of the packing variety, the kind that makes snowballs and snowmen. First of the season, and hopefully the last, but don’t count on it!

APRIL FOOL!

This coming Tuesday is April Fools Day. It’s also the day Wisconsinites go to the polls to choose school board members and most local officials for the next few years. It’s sad that so many of our offices in recent years are uncontested. Sometimes that’s because the incumbents are doing such a good job, and that’s fine.

But sometimes it’s just that no one cares enough to get involved. There are a few offices in TIMESland that have no candidates at all this year. And that is very sad indeed. Next time you’re unhappy about city hall or county board, remember - you could have been one of the folks making the decisions you’re complaining about. You could have made a difference!

WHY APRIL 1?

Most of us are fools some of the time, and we don’t need a special day to do it. So why did they come to set aside a special day for fools, and why is it on April 1?

Historians tell us that in the 16th century, people in France celebrated the New Year just like we do today, except they partied on April 1, which at the time was the first day of the new year.

Actually, I like that idea. Have always felt Spring should be when the New Year begins, not in the dead of Winter.

However that may be, in 1562, Pope Gregory changed the calendar to the one we use today and from then on, the New Year began on January 1. Lots of people didn’t know about the new calendar, or chose to ignore it. They kept celebrating on April 1. Everyone else called them April fools and played tricks on them.

In France today, the April Fool is called “Poisson d’Avril”. The joke is to pin a fish on the back of an unknowing victim, and then laugh at them for it.

Am told in England, April Fool tricks are okay, but they can only be played in the morning. If a trick is played on you, you are a “noodle.” In Scotland, you are called an “April gowk,” which is another name for a cuckoo bird. In Portugal, April Fools’ is celebrated on the Sunday and Monday before Lent. Pranksters usually throw flour at their friends.

LOCH NESS MONSTER

Sometimes April Fools pranks go right, and sometimes they don’t.

Or in other words, “The best laid plans of mice and men can sometimes gang agley....”

According to the Museum of Hoaxes, one that went sort of agley happened in 1972. while a team of zoologists from Yorkshire’s Flamingo Park Zoo were at Loch Ness, searching for signs of the famous monster.

On April 1,1972 newspaper headlines around the world blared that the dead body of a Loch Ness monster had been found. Scientists had discovered the remains floating on the Ness the day before.

They reported the monster weight one and a half tons and was more than 15 feet long.

They loaded the remains into their van and began transporting it back to their zoo, but the local police were having none of that. That monster belonged to their community. A 1933 Act of Parliament prohibited removal of any “unidentified creatures” from Loch Ness.

The police confiscated the body and took it to Dunfermline for an examination.

Everybody was deflated.

Turns out the creature was a bull elephant seal from the South Atlantic that had been a resident of Dudley Zoo until it died a week or so earlier. The zookeeper at Dudley was a friend of the Flamingo Park Zoo’s education officer, John Shields, who wanted to play a prank on his friends who were exploring the Loch.

He obtained the remains of the seal, shaved off its whiskers, padded its cheeks with stones, and kept it frozen for a week. He dumped it in the Loch, in a spot where his friends would find it, and then phoned in a tip to make sure they looked in the right place.

The report didn’t say if anyone got arrested for helping a seal impersonate the Loch Ness monster, but the police released the body, which was displayed for a few days at the Flamingo Park Zoo before being dispatched to its final resting place.

AND THE GOOD NEWS IS...

Like butter and eggs, shrimp has been rehabilitated.

For years, butter, egg yolks and shrimp have been banned from the diets of heart patients because of their cholesterol content. Turns out these good natural foods may not be bad for your body, cholesterol or no, and in fact may be very good for it. Now, more and more studies are showing that shrimp or any type of shellfish are also not harmful, and probably are good. They’re high in the healthy omega-3 oils that not only block the digestion of dietary cholesterol, but also reduce production of bad LDL cholesterol in your body.

Not only that, but the omega-3s also keep blood vessel walls flexible, reducing the risk of damaging blood clots that can cause both strokes and heart attacks.

Some cardiologists, like Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., who wrote, “Heart Sense for Women,” advise eating shellfish twice a week. Sinatra claims this will lower the risk of heart disease by 29 percent.

KEEP MOVING

There apparently was a lot of good sense in the old advise to grin and bear it. Contrary to the old rule that muscle strains and sprains should be pampered, many doctors who specialize in sports medicine are now advising their patients to just keep moving.

Helps the injury heal faster and better.

They also say exercising and staying fit can cut future injury risk in half.

In grandma’s day, women after childbirth were kept in bed for as much as two weeks (my grandma, not yours), and a lot of them died of it, including one of my grandmothers. Turned out staying in bed greatly increased the chance of blood clots. Today the philosophy is to get moving as quickly as possible. Lots of young moms don’t even spend the night in the hospital these days.

Friend who recently had rather major back surgery was up and walking the same day. Not out of the hospital, and not without pain, but up and walking! ditto for heart surgery patients.

How many of us have wakened to a headache or other ailment that could easily confine us to bed for the day, only to realize that this or that absolutely must be done, and no one else could or would do it. Usually (certainly not always) we discover that once we face up to the challenge and get moving, we do indeed make it through and accomplish whatever it is we have to do. Mind over matter!

Apparently it’s the same principle for all the issues - grin and bear it and keep moving!

SMILE AWHILE

Incidentally, have also found, through many trial and error sessions, if you start feeling really, really down - you know the kind - where you can hardly put one foot in front of the other, and it isn’t from physical exhaustion - go in the bathroom. Wash your face with hot water, then rinse with cool.

Once you’re all clean and fresh, make faces at yourself in the mirror. Laugh at yourself! No matter how much you don’t feel like it, smile. Put on some makeup (this only applies if you’re a woman). Flutter your eyelashes. Act coy. Then laugh at yourself again.

Now put on some decent clothes and go out for a walk, fast. Better yet, go somewhere to find people and walk fast to get there. The playground is great in summer, kind of lonesome at this time of year. Smile at everyone you see. Little kids are especially good. Look for things to compliment others on, especially those little kids.

Then go home and make two lists of everything you hate about your life. On one put things you can do something about, and after each put what you can do, and a goal date to start doing it. Resolve to get started.

Write the other on toilet paper. On it put things you can’t change. Once that list is done, flush it away. Gone. Then either get started on the “can do” list, or promise to start tomorrow. Then watch a good comedy show while eating dark chocolate, and finally, say your prayers, go to bed and get a good night’s sleep.

Now, isn’t this cure for depression lots better than taking a pill that sends you to la-la land? It usually works, and if it doesn’t, maybe there is some kind of a clinical problem, in which case you do need to see a doctor.

Incidentally, taking Melatonin before bedtime is a good idea. Helps you sleep restfully, and raises the level of “feel good” hormones in your body.

COOKIN’ TIME

Lent continues, and Spring continues to lag. Meanwhile, our taste buds are hungering for some of the marvelous flavors of spring, so let’s try to please them.

NESTED COD FILLETS

If you think eating fish during Lent is a sacrifice, try this! A sacrifice it definitely is not, but it is meatless, so to those of use raised with meatless Lents, it fits in very nicely with the season. When grating the orange peel, be sure to use only the orange zest, not the white pith underneath it. One good size orange should do nicely. Serves four. The instructions look long, but this is really easy and cooks in half an hour, start to finish.

1 cup rice

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons grated orange peel

1 (28 ounces) can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or tarragon

4 (6 ounces) skinless cod fillets

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

5 cups baby spinach (5 ounces), or 8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained

Put rice, water, butter and half teaspoon salt on to cook about 30 minutes before dinner time. Cook, covered, 20 minutes and then shut it off, fluff with a fork and return the cover. As soon as you put the rice on, heat oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat until hot. Add onion; cook 4 to 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and orange peel; cook 1 minute or until fragrant, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes and basil; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; boil gently 20 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. While that cooks, sprinkle cod with salt and pepper and let it sit until the 20 minutes have gone by. Add them to the skillet and spoon some of the tomato mixture over them. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until fish is almost cooked through. Top with spinach; cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until spinach is wilted and cod just begins to flake. To serve, make a rice nest on the plate, place a cod fillet on top, and spoon on some of the tomato/spinach mixture. Put the rest in a dish for those who want to add more. Pass the crusty rolls and butter, and perhaps some nice fresh asparagus.

SPRINGTIME EGG BAKE

Eggs, bacon, spinach, ham, ricotta cheese - all sorts of good things in one casserole that you put in the oven the night before, ready for a delicious, hearty breakfast on a busy Easter morning. Or any other morning, for that matter. You can mix and match the cheeses to suit you taste, except for the ricotta, of course. Pancetta is an unsmoked rolled Italian bacon that’s cured with salt and spices. If you can’t find it, or don’t want to afford it, use somewhat thinly sliced ham instead, and add a couple of extra dashes of pepper.

4 cups cubed (1 inch) whole grain white bread

5 thin slices pancetta, (or ham) coarsely chopped

(about 1-1/2 ounces)

3 slices bacon, chopped

1/2 cup chopped shallots

1 (9 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

squeezed dry

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

4 ounces soft goat cheese

6 eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup shredded ages Gouda cheese (2 ounces)

Buttery flavored cooking spray

Coat 11x7 inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange bread cubes over bottom of dish. Saut pancetta (or ham) and bacon in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes or until beginning to brown, stirring frequently. Add shallots; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until shallots are tender and bacon is brown. Scatter over bread; top with spinach. Pulse ricotta cheese and goat cheese in food processor until smooth. Add eggs, salt, pepper and allspice; pulse until blended. Place in large bowl; slowly stir in milk. Pour over bread mixture making sure everything is moistened; sprinkle with Gouda cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

PULL APART PECAN BREAD

Enjoy this treat on Easter morning, or any time before that, too. Do most of the work the night before, and finish in a few minutes in the morning. Then bake and enjoy.

1 cup granulated sugar

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided

1 (2-pound) package frozen bread roll dough

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup chopped pecans

3/4 cup whipping cream

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Stir together granulated sugar and 3 teaspoons cinnamon. Coat each roll in butter; dredge rolls in sugar mixture. Arrange in a lightly greased 10-inch tube pan; sprinkle with pecans. Cover and chill 8 to 18 hours. When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat whipping cream at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form; stir in brown sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Pour mixture over dough. Place pan on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown. Cool the entire pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; invert onto a serving plate, and drizzle with any remaining glaze in pan. (If you want to really work at this, feel free to make your own sweet roll dough, but isn’t it nice to know you don’t have to?)

Thought for the Week: If we want success we need to keep working toward it. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” Lord, help me work to become the person I would like to be. Amen.

(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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