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Country Cousin

Winter Is Here!...

It's official coming out party isn't scheduled until Wednesday, Dec. 21, but Winter has blown in. We've all been spoiled by a beautiful and extended Autumn, but appears to be definitely over. The snow covered fields and forests Monday morning were absolutely gorgeous, the kind of scene that makes winter almost worth it. Didn't last long, but while it was there, brought to mind a line from an old Robert Louis Stephenson poem, "...and hill and dale and field and lake were frosted like a wedding cake."

And guess what, folks? That frosted feast for the eyes had no calories at all!

SANTA LUCIA DAY

Because the sun's appearance in the winter sky is so brief and so precious in the north, lots of legends have grown up around it, and holidays are celebrated, whether by accident or by design.

The Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, is one of those.

Many Christians believe the timing of Christ's birthday to coincide with the return of longer days is no accident. After all, Jesus is the Light of the World.

THE JESSE TREE

Had personally never heard of a Jesse Tree, but found reference to it recently on the Web. The Jesse Tree was used in Medieval days to help illustrate the story of creation and salvation to people who could not read, and may well be the predecessor of our Christmas tree. On the other hand, our Germanic ancestors did worship trees, and that plays into it as well.

The Jesse Tree appears to be a reference to a Biblical prophecy concerning the coming of Christ.

The name comes from Jesse who was the Father of the great Jewish King David. One prophecy in the Bible, in the book of Isaiah, says:

"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him" the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD"and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth."

A branch is a sign of new life and new beginnings. Jesus was a descendent of King David and Christians believe that Jesus is this new branch.

Because they were of the House of David, and therefore descendants of Jesse, Mary and Joseph had to make that trip to Bethlehem, the city of David, to be counted in the census. And that is how Jesus the Savior was born there, exactly where the Biblical prophecies said it would happen.

A nice tradition for Advent in some households is to prepare a Jesse Tree - and each day hang a different Christmas reminder from it. Ideas include a Star of David, a ram's horn, a golden apple (remember Adam and Eve?), a lamb, a rainbow (remember the flood?), and much more. You get the idea. Even a small stump with a single branch growing from it. Or if you're lucky, you might find a slightly larger one of those to use as your own personal Jesse Tree. Now that would be worth saving year after year!

SANTA LUCIA DAY

In Sweden, St. Lucia's Day, on Dec. 13, marks the beginning of the Christmas celebration. At one time, perhaps it was before the calendars were changed, Dec. 13 was believed to be the shortest day of the year. Now that shortest day is on Dec. 21, so we here in TIMESland have three weeks to wait after today before things start getting brighter again.

Anyway, in Sweden on Santa Lucia Day, each family's eldest daughter, wearing a white dress with a red sash and an evergreen wreath with 7 lighted candles on her head, is supposed to deliver coffee and buns to each family member in his or her room. Often even hotel guests are awakened and served coffee cakes in their rooms on this day by a white-robed girl. Many schools, offices, and communities sponsor candlelight parades in the evenings in which carols are sung and everyone thanks the Queen of Light for bringing hope during the darkest time of the year.

The real Santa Lucia is said to have been born in Sicily in the fourth century. This was long before anyone ever heard of a flashlight. The nearest thing they had would be candles or a flaming torch of some sort. And since there were no matches, they would be in real trouble if that candle got blown out while they were on their way through the darkness to wherever.

Legend has it that, wearing a wreath of candles on her head to light the way, Santa Lucia spent most of her time carrying food and drink to persecuted Christians hiding in the dark catacombs under Rome.

ON THE SOAP BOX

DARK DAYS HERE


Once again, intolerance of Christian traditions held dear by most of us has again reared its ugly head in TIMESland.

Sad that the new Menominee City Manager, in his first day on the job, saw fit to destroy a tradition held dear by many in this area for nearly half a century - that of having a life size manger scene displayed in the bandshell on the lakeshore in the historic downtown area.

Couldn't he have found some other way to put his imprint on the city?

For many of us who grew up in Marinette and Menominee counties, viewing that display and driving around to look at other Christmas decorations in the Twin Cities was a special treat that we looked forward to each year when we were young, and shared with our children when we got older.

Now, thanks to some intolerant bigots who claim not to believe in Christ but apparently are afraid of Him anyway, we are being denied one of the best parts of that Christmas tradition.

Couldn't theanti-Christ bigots be big enough to just look away if they don't like Christmas?

We need to be careful. Getting rid of religion is one of the first steps of converting nations to Communism and Marxism. You can read all about it in the Communist Manifesto.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

People of the anti-Christ mindset also have been working hard to get Christ out of Christmas in other ways.

Frosty and Rudolph are OK, but Jesus is not. He is offensive!

As you have probably noticed, schools no longer have "Christmas Programs," they have "Holiday Concerts." Kids no longer can sing "Christmas Carols," but they can sing "Holiday Songs." And for a while, some merchants were allowing their clerks to say "Happy Holidays" but not "Merry Christmas." (Backlash from rightly outraged customers stopped most of them from continuing that practice. Money talks.)

Well, if we think about it, the term "holiday" also may not be tolerated for long.

Probably shouldn't point this out to the bigots, but the word "holiday" refers to holy days, and comes from comes from "holy day". How long before the word police make us stop using that word too? What will they call the season around Dec. 25 then?

JUDGE NOT

Citing his Christian religion and his understanding of representative democracy, Art Sisneros, a Texas Republican, announced over the Nov. 26 weekend that he would resign his post as a member of the Electoral College rather than cast a ballot for US President-elect Donald Trump, a man he deems "not Biblically qualified for office."

Seems to me Sisneros did the right thing by resigning rather than flouting the wishes of the people who voted in his state. But think about this - how can a self-proclaimed Christian dare to decide (not as an individual but as a person who would be acting contrary to the wishes of the group he was supposed to represent) that anyone "is not Biblically qualified?

Does not the Bible warn, "Judge not, lest thou be judged!"

That said, sometimes we as individual citizens are called on to exercise our best judgment. So, as far as being "Biblically qualified," which candidate spoke out against abortion? Which one promised to protect the Christian values of our nation? And which one said we as a nation must change our long cherished moral beliefs?

If he has ever heard Hillary speak, or read reports of what she had to say, could he really have voted for her and still managed to convince himself that by doing so he was following his Christian beliefs?

GROW CHRISTMAS

You don't need to spend a lot to get an attractive new plant for Christmas. I have had considerable success raising the top of a pineapple to a pretty, spikey Christmas Tree shaped plant that looked lovely with a miniature ornament tucked onto each leaf. You might even be able to buy a pineapple with a top that's already suitable for decorating, and then save the top as a really pretty house plant.

Buy a fresh pineapple with an attractive leafy bract growing at the top. Cut this off with about an inch of the pineapple attached and plant it. Keep it in medium light, and keep it watered. It should grow. You get to eat the pineapple now and enjoy the plant later.

COOKIN' TIME

Time for all the Christmas goodies, which of course we all know have absolutely no calories. Cindy, my friend and co-worker, said she makes all her sugar cookies and the frosting she puts on them with almond extract rather than vanilla, and it is a wonderful difference. Absolutely must try it!

EASY EGG CASSEROLE

Great for a make-ahead breakfast staple. Just make, chill, and microwave individual servings whenever someone is hungry. The casserole also makes a marvelous Christmas breakfast. No need to stand at the stove and cook eggs to order.

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

6 eggs, whisked

6 slices bacon, diced

2 slices bread, cubed

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 red bell pepper, diced

1/3 green pepper, diced

2 green onions, chopped

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, or to taste (optional)

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Fry green and red peppers and onion gently until soft and translucent. Stir Cheddar cheese, eggs, bacon, bread, pepper/onion mixture, milk, garlic, salt, and black pepper together in a bowl until well-combined; pour into prepared baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven until eggs are set, 20 to 25 minutes.

SWEET POTATO STREUSEL CASSEROLE

Here's a sweet potato recipe to eat now, or make now to enjoy for Christmas with no last minute effort. This freezes well, provided you thaw overnight in the fridge and then bake it long enough at meal time to crisp up the topping.

2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4), peeled, cooked and mashed

1/4 cup orange juice

6 tablespoons butter, melted, divided

10 gingersnaps, finely crushed

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

3 tablespoons brown sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix potatoes, orange juice and half the butter until blended; spoon into a two quart casserole sprayed with cooking spray. Mix remaining butter, cookie crumbs, nuts and sugar until blended and sprinkle over the potato mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until potato mixture is heated through and topping is golden brown.

CARAMEL BUNDT CAKE

This can be decorated as a very lovely and delicious wreath centerpiece for a holiday buffet.

1 pkg. (2-layer size) yellow cake mix

1 pkg. (3.4 ounces) vanilla flavor Instant Pudding

1/2 cup French vanilla coffee creamer

4 eggs

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup oil

1/4 cup water

18 caramels

2 teaspoons water

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons. milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat first seven ingredients in large bowl with mixer until blended. Remove 1/2 cup batter; place in small bowl. Pour remaining batter into greased and floured 12-cup fluted tube pan or 10-inch tube pan. Unwrap caramels and microwave them with two teaspoons of water for about 30 seconds, stir and nuke again until they are completely melted. Add to reserved cake batter and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls over batter in pan; swirl gently with a knife. Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan 10 min. Loosen cake from sides of pan with knife, then invert onto wire rack and gently remove the pan. Cool cake completely. Beat all remaining ingredients except nuts with mixer until blended; drizzle over cake. Sprinkle with nuts, or add suitable decorations.

SOFT SUGAR COOKIES

For a holiday look, decorate these easy Snickerdoodle-flavored drop cookies with chocolate shot, colored sugar or sprinkles if you like.

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups flour

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

Mix sour cream and baking soda; set aside. Beat butter and granulated sugar in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs; mix well. Blend in nutmeg, vanilla and sour cream mixture. Gradually add flour, beating well after each addition. Refrigerate 30 min. Heat oven to 350F. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough two inches apart onto baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or just until centers are set and edges are lightly browned. Let stand on baking sheets three minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. Mix powdered sugar and milk until blended; spread onto cookies. Let stand until frosting is firm.

PLUM APPLE BUTTER

Makes five lovely little Christmas gifts if you put in attractive 8-ounce containers.

2 pounds tart apples, peeled and quartered

2 pounds plums, pitted and quartered

1 cup water

3 cups sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Place apples, plums and water in a large kettle; cover and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Cool. Puree in batches in a food processor or blender; return all to the kettle. Add sugar and spices. Simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Cool completely. Pour into jars. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Makes 5 cups. If you prefer a longer shelf life, or want to present as gifts that do not require refrigeration, Scald attractive 8-ounce canning jars and the lids they require. Pour the hot fruit mixture into them as soon as it's done and seal the jars. Then let cool, and tie a pretty ribbon around each jar to present as a small Christmas gift, or perhaps an offering for your hostess.

The Country Cousin

Thought for the week:
"Only the humble believe Him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that He does wonders where people despair, that He takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of wonders, that God loves the lowly and God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as His instruments and performs His wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; He loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken." - from Dietrich Bonhoeller, in "God Is In The Manger: Reflections on Advent."



(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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