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

Issue Date: December 2, 2020

Advent is here, Christmas is coming!

Santa and his reindeer aren't the only things that fly around here. The year just keeps flying by. Deer Season has come and gone, Thanksgiving has come and gone, Advent is here, and 2020 is nearly over.

Hardly finish carving Halloween Jack O' Lanterns and it's time to make pumpkin pies, carve the Thanksgiving turkey, set up the Manger Scene, trim the Christmas tree, and wish everyone a Happy New Year! The country song, "Don't Blink," has really nailed the time flies idea!

THANKSGIVING DINNER

By the way, know what our little green alien visitors from Mars ate their Thanksgiving dinners on this year?

Flying saucers!

SHORT DAYS

We all know December days are among the shortest of the year in terms hours of daylight, but somehow they also seem to be the shortest in terms of hours overall. Every year we know Christmas is coming, and exactly when it will get here, but most of us nonetheless seem to end up with too much to do and too little time to do it in.

And every year we swear this time it will be different, but it never is. Maybe that's because if we do manage to find a little extra time we find something new to do with it.

WINTER WEATHER

Never heard of it before, but am told by various weather sites that there's a "Meteorological Winter" that started on Tuesday, Dec. 1, while the "Winter Solstice," which is the official start of winter, and the shortest day of the year, doesn't arrive until 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 21 this year. After that, hours of daylight will start gradually increasing until June 21, the longest day of the year.

Always did think Winter really started in late November or early December, and now am pleased to learn that official weather watchers agree.

In any case, weather news is that winter 2020 got off to a snowy start in parts of Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia on Tuesday, Dec. 1, when a major storm unleashed more than a foot of snow and sparked wrecks, interstate highway closures and thousands of power outages.

Luckily, TIMESland escaped that snowfall and there's no snow predicted for at least the next week or so. Temperatures are expected to remain as they have been, or slightly warmer, with partly sunny skies and daytime temperatures reaching even up into the 40s. Pretty good for this time of year.

WEATHER SCIENCE

Recently discovered that the accuweather.com website has a special feature called "AccuWeather School" that offers some really neat weather-related science projects for moms and dads to do with the kids. Might just get them interested in a career in meteorology or some other field of science. You never know.

DATES TO REMEMBER

Just a reminder, in case the telemarketers allow us to forget it - Monday, Dec. 7 is the final day for us retired folks to make changes in our Medicare health insurance coverage for the coming year.

And Thursday, Dec. 31, is the final day for all of us to make financial changes that might result in lower amounts due - or larger refunds - when we file our income tax returns for 2020.

Anyone who has a Flexible Spending Account for medical expenses should use it up before it expires. If there's money left, and if you can get an appointment, this would be a good time to see your doctor, dentist or optometrist.

Also a good time to add to tax free savings accounts or IRAs and make tax-deductible donations to charities. Even contributions in kind - like donations of old vehicles to some organizations, or donations of building materials to groups like Habitat For Humanity can b used as deductions. Even some costs associated with donating your time to charitable causes may be deductible. No need to pay more taxes than absolutely necessary!

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

All over TIMESLand, and probably all over the Christian world, Christmas decorations are being put up, and Christmas lights are being turned on. Advent started Sunday, Nov. 29, and ends on Thursday, Dec. 24 - Christmas Eve. The purpose for the season of advent is to prepare our hearts and homes for the coming of Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Christ, the light of the World. Even in Jewish tradition, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, comes during the Christmas season. Starts this year on Thursday, Dec. 10 and ends on Friday, Dec. 18.

Seems fitting that the holidays both of the world's major religions celebrate with lights and lighting candles comes during the shortest days of the year here in the northern hemisphere. Of course, the farther north you go, the shorter the days get, and the more hours of darkness we have to enjoy the marvelous Christmas lights.

Thanks to everyone who puts up marvelous Christmas displays for all passersby to enjoy!

SPECIAL DECORATNG

Cities and villages have their streets glowing with Christmas lights, as do so many businesses and homes throughout the entire area. Christmas parades and other celebrations are planned, even if the fun for some is hampered by the Covid-19 restrictions.

In Coleman, the lighted Christmas trees lining the ballpark fence along what once was Hwy. 141 through the village are decorated and beautifully lit.

Wausaukee Business Association (WBA) is again hosting the traditional Christmas in the Park event at Evergreen Park. Decorated campsites can be viewed from Saturday, Dec. 5 through Saturday, Jan. 2, with lights to be on from 3 p.m. through 11 p.m. each day. This year, due to the newly refinished roads and driveways in the lower campground, the decorated sites and the event itself will be held in the upper campground, along the gravel road near the pavilion.

Individuals and groups wanting to rent a campsite to decorate may still be able to do so, but time is short. All decorating must be completed by Friday, Dec. 4, in time for the official lighting ceremonies on Saturday.

Santa is to make a special appearance at the park starting at 3 p.m.There won't be any chance for kids to sit on his lap. He's to be wearing a mask and will visit with the little ones from a safe social distance. He will have gifts for each kid, and honor of his visit Wausaukee Business Association will be serving free hot dogs and hot chocolate in the pavilion. Official lighting ceremony is at 4:30 p.m.

The Village of Crivitz Christmas Parade is at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 12.

In the City of Marinette Christmas trees on Stephenson Island are decorated thanks to the "Adopt A Tree" project, and there's to be a parade and celebration on Saturday, Dec. 5, with the theme, "A Christmas Carol." The parade starts at 1 p.m., traveling down Main Street from Water Street to Liberty Street. There are to be decorated floats, bands, walkers, horses, dancers and more, probably including Santa and his elves.

CHRISTMAS IS COMING

Festivities aside, the purpose for the season of Advent is to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christmas. Let's hope we don't all get so busy getting our homes and yards in shape that we forget to do some cleaning and decorating of our souls as well.

Let's make time for some special prayer time and family observances to remind ourselves and our families that Christ is the reason for the Season.

Also, a little reminder on generosity. We probably all need to spend less time asking our kids and grandkids what they want for Christmas, and more time asking them what they want to give.

If we're expecting guests for the holidays we generally do some special cleaning, and make some special preparations to be sure they have an enjoyable visit.

A good suggestion offered by one of the many excellent Christian websites is to have a family conversation once in a while about what we might do differently if we knew Jesus was coming to visit us in person on Christmas, and not just spiritually?

How would we welcome Him?

What sort of feast might we prepare?

What special decorations might we put out?

What sort of pillows would we put on His bed?

Would we polish the windows and dust the ceilings?

How clean would our floors need to be for Him to walk on them?

How clean would our souls need to be for us to be comfortable when He looks into our eyes and reads what's behind them?

ADVENT WREATH

An advent wreath is easy to make and an excellent Christmas decoration to bring the family together once a week all through the Christmas season. The wreath should be in the traditional round shape, or can be a long runner for a mantle or tabletop. The circular garland of evergreen branches is used as a symbol of eternity and unending love.

If your Advent wreath is made from real evergreens, you need to be vey careful about fire, because lighted candles are part of the whole idea.

There should be five candles, four on the outer circle to symbolize hope, love, joy and peace, and a white one in the middle to signify the birth of Jesus Christ, Light of the World.

Ideally, the family should share a brief prayer with the weekly lighting of the Advent wreath candles.

CLEAN THE HEADLIGHTS

Manage to forget this every year, then find myself driving almost without headlights when darkness falls. When it snows, clean headlights and tail lights before you set out, whether the windshield needs cleaning or not. On slushy road days, when salt splashes up on them, be sure to keep headlights and tail lights clean, or at least as clean as you can. Stop to do it if necessary. That sometimes is at least as important as keeping the windshield washer full and ready to wash.

ON THE SOAP BOX CAMPAIGN PROMISES

As it becomes more and more likely that the results of the Nov. 3 national elections will be the one I do not prefer, am becoming more and more terrified of the impact it could have on our American freedoms, prosperity and entire way of life, possibly for generations to come.

Have questioned the honesty of elections before, but have never before been afraid that the politicians elected would keep their campaign promises.

Usually they don't, so there's still some hope. Maybe the winning politicians this time around will allow us to keep the things we hold dear by not breaking that tradition.

Living under a Communist-style dictatorship would not sit well with most Americans.

COOKIN' TIME

We've all heard enough about politics and viruses to last us a lifetime. Let's think about happier things, like food, family, and friends. No better time of year to do that.

ITALIAN VENISON CASSEROLE

This good old recipe can be made with regular hamburger too, if your hunters were not successful. Or use venison sausage and cut back on the salt and pepper, or use a mixture of ground beef, ground turkey and ground pork. It's sort of like a pizza casserole with macaroni instead of pizza crust. Serve with a green salad, or perhaps simple buttered green beans.

1 (16 ounce) package mostaccioli or other medium

tube pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 pound ground venison

1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces sliced pepperoni, optional

3 cups grated Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 9"X13" baking dish, not aluminum. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve pasta. Meanwhile, place the olive oil into a skillet set over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion, and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the venison and cook until crumbled and no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Drain, if necessary. Stir in the tomato sauce, basil, and garlic powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and turn off the heat. Assemble the casserole by spooning a layer of the venison sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the sauce with Parmesan cheese, and layer with cooked pasta. Top with the sauce, layer with pasta, then half of the pepperoni and half of the Mozzarella. Repeat the layers to use the remaining ingredients, ending with a layer of Mozzarella cheese. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil cover and bake about 10 more minutes, or until the cheese topping is light gold.

PECAN CHERRY WINK SNOWBALLS

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup pecans, chopped

1/4 cup maraschino cherries, quartered

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Blend softened butter with powdered sugar. Add vanilla.

Mix in salt, flour and chopped pecans.

Form dough into 1 inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press a cherry quarter in the center of each. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes. While hot, roll in powdered sugar and put back on cookie sheet to cool some more. When cooler, but not yet cold roll them again in the powdered sugar and put back on the baking sheet to fully cool before putting them into an airtight container. These cookies even travel well if you have the container full enough to prevent them from bouncing around too much.

ALMOND SNOWBALL COOKIES

1 1/2 cups ground almonds

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups of powdered sugar

Place the rack at the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl, combine the almond powder, flour and almonds. Reserve. In another bowl, cream the butter with a 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with an electric mixer. On low speed or with a wooden spoon, stir in the almond powder mixture.

Using a small 1 tbsp (15 ml) ice cream scoop, form dough balls. Finish shaping them by rolling them with your hands. Distribute the cookies on the baking sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool for 5 minutes. While the cookies are still hot, roll them in the remaining powdered sugar. Place back on cookie sheets to cool a bit, but not completely. While they are still warm, roll them again in the powdered sugar, and put back on cookie sheets to completely cool. Cookies will keep for about 3 weeks in an airtight container in a cool, dry place or can be frozen once baked and rolled in sugar.

The Country Cousin

Thought for the week:
"During this time of preparing for Christmas, Lord, come to the manger of my heart. Fill me with Your presence from the very start. As I prepare for the holidays and gifts to be given, remind me of the Gift You gave when You sent Your Son from Heaven" the first Christmas gift, the greatest gift ever. You came as a baby born in a manger, wrapped like the gifts I find under my tree, waiting to be opened, to reveal Your love to me. Restore to me the wonder that came with Jesus' birth. Come to the manger of my heart. Dwell within and around me, as I unwrap Your presence each day. Invade my soul like Bethlehem, bringing peace to every part." Amen. (Revised from an Advent prayer on Christianity.com)

(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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