Happy New Year!...
Here we are, at the end of 2016 and the start of 2017. We were blessed with a very beautiful White Christmas, including weather fine enough to play outdoors most of Saturday, Sunday and Monday, despite some spells of snow and rain that created exceedingly hazardous driving conditions at a time of year when many drivers have sort of forgotten how to deal with it. Ditto for many walkers. Walking was at least as hazardous as driving, at least until the ice and snow were cleared away.
Hope your family was as fortunate as ours. We managed to get through it with a few spills but no serious injuries to anyone except the snowman, whose head fell off.
Heads falling must be caused by a structural defect in the snowmen we built. It even happened to the 10 or 12-foot colossus our boys (the big ones) created a few years ago. They put on the head by standing on the hood of a jeep and then hoisting it up. Took two of them to do it. That giant Frosty was fine when everyone went into bed, but by morning he had fallen. We didn't have a photo to prove he existed! So sad!
PREDICTION, WINTER OF 2017
According to Old Farmer's Almanac, the northeast quarter of Minnesota, the northern half of Wisconsin (that's us) and all of Michigan's Upper Peninsula should expect a winter this year that's more cold and snowy than usual. Guess we'll be paying for last year.
We've already had some exceedingly cold days for this early in the Winter season, and they feel even colder than they are.
Zero degrees feels a lot colder in the fall than it does in the spring. This is because in spring our bodies are used to dealing with much colder temperatures and react more quickly, so we lose heat more slowly, and don't "feel" as cold.
HOW COLD WAS IT?
That said, it's been truly pretty cold already, but nothing compared to tales we've heard from Canada during some mind numbing winters.
For example, they say that several children got stuck to their playground equipment and had to be thawed off on a 43 degrees below zero day on December 19, 1983 in Moosomin, Saskatchewan
That's not so bad. They also say that when a Winnipeg, Canada hotel caught fire on December 24, 1879, a guest trapped by the flames simply poured a pitcher of water out the window and slid down the icicle.
There were reports that when the mercury dipped to minus 45 degrees on Jan. 15, 1994 in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, it was so cold that tires fell off the rims of cars.
There are claims that in Manitoba, Canada in the winter of 1948 it got so cold that smoke froze in the chimney and choked out the fire, and ravens just nodded at each other rather than opening their mouths to squawk.
Not only that, in January of the awful winter of 1938, temperatures dipped to 51 below in southern Saskatchewan, and it was so cold that when cattle urinated they had to keep moving so the icicles they made didn't freeze them to the ground.
Maybe we don't have it so bad after all!
WINTER SKIN CARE
With winter weather comes dry skin, as artificial heat, no matter what its source, dries out the air.
Here are a few tips that can help fix the dry skin conditions that bring on even more wrinkles,and sometimes even itching and cracking.
*Change your skin care routine. Switch to an oil-based ointment or cream instead of water-based. The oil will create a protective layer on the skin that retains more moisture than a cream or lotion. Many lotions labeled as "night creams" are oil-based. Some type of oil would be the first ingredient on the label. Choose your oils with care because not all oils are appropriate for the face.
Look for "non clogging" oils, like avocado oil, mineral oil, primrose oil, or almond oil. Shea oil " or butter " is controversial, because it can clog facial pores, but it can be helpful as extra protection occasionally if you're going to be out in the cold for a long time. Vegetable shortening would just sit on the skin and be really greasy.
You might also look for lotions containing "humectants," like glycerine, sorbitol, and alpha-hydroxy acids that attract moisture to your skin.
Sunscreen isn't just for summertime. Winter sun, combined with snow glare, can still damage your skin, so apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your face and hands (if they're exposed) about 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply frequently if you stay outside a long time.
The skin on your hands is thinner than on most parts of the body and has fewer oil glands. That means it's harder to keep your hands moist, especially in cold, dry weather. This can lead to itchiness and cracking. Wear gloves when you go outside; if you need to wear wool to keep your hands warm, slip on a thin cotton glove first, to avoid any irritation the wool might cause.
Solve the winter dry skin problem before it starts by hooking up the humidifier. That's a good idea anyway. Dry winter air damages furniture and fabrics, and makes it easier for your family to catch colds. Placing several small humidifiers throughout your home will help disperse the moisture more evenly. Having one in the bedroom is a particularly good idea.
During the winter, your feet need stronger stuff than their regular cream or lotion, perhaps one that contains petroleum jelly or glycerine instead. Using exfoliants to get the dead skin off periodically helps moisturizers sink in faster and deeper.
Instead of peels, alcohol based toners, etc., use a cleansing milk or mild foaming cleanser, a toner with no alcohol, and masks that are "deeply hydrating," rather than clay-based, which tends to draw moisture out of the face. And regardless, use them a little less often.
Give up super hot long baths if dry skin is a real problem for you. Instead, enjoy a briefer lukewarm bath with oatmeal or baking soda to help relieve skin that is so dry it has become itchy. We're told that milk baths worked for Cleopatra, and they'd probably work for us, but very few of us could afford to be that extravagant.
While setting up the manger scene this year, with many new animals added to the collection, one of the grown up grandsons became very concerned over the sanitary conditions that greeted Baby Jesus when He came into this world.
Said with all those animals there would be manure, and that means germs. Said in today's world the authorities would have taken that Babe away from his parents. If there'd have been a welfare agency back then, they would not have been allowed to live with Him in a stable with all those animals around.
But would they have made room for Him at the inn? There we go, with that homeless problem again!
Playtime is almost over for the 2016-2017 Christmas season. By the way, hats off to the many merchants (and school districts) that have gone back to saying Merry Christmas instead of the generic "happy holidays" touted by the freedom from religion agnostics. If there were no God and no Jesus there would be no reason for the season, so why celebrate it at all?
NEW YEAR, NEW START
That said, Jan. 1 is the start of a New Year, and starting with a clean slate is something to celebrate.
Many of us celebrate by making New Year's resolutions. Some of those resolutions may be kept. Most will not.
New Year's resolutions have a long history, and the part about keeping resolutions has probably been true as long as resolutions have existed. The tradition predates Christianity by centuries, even eons. The month of January was named for the two-faced Roman god, Janus, who looks forward for new beginnings as well as backwards for reflection and resolution.
In 2000 B.C., the Babylonians celebrated the New Year for 11 days, starting with the vernal equinox.
Resolutions for a new start were part of that celebration, and historians say one popular resolution was the returning of borrowed farm equipment, which makes sense for an agriculturally based society.
The Babylonian New Year was adopted by the Romans as was the tradition of resolutions. With the introduction of the Julian calendar New Year's was shifted to January, hence the tribute to two-faced Janus who has not only the god of new beginnings but also the guardian of gates and doors.
Janus presided over the temple of peace, where the doors were opened only during wartime. It was a place of safety, where new beginnings and new resolutions could be forged.
If you think about the land and the seasons, the timing of early January makes sense for most of North America. The active harvest season has passed. The holiday frenzy is ending.
As Old Farmer's Almanac founder Robert B. Thomas said in regard to celebrating New Year's: this is a time of leisure to farmers, a time for them to settle accounts with neighbors. "Now having been industrious in the summer, you will have the felicity of retiring from the turbulence of the storm to the bosom of your family."
MAKING THOSE RESOLUTIONS
Here are a few tips if you're taking on a New Year's resolution or two:
*First, don't make too many at once. Keep it simple. Settle on one or two things that you really can accomplish. Not a big list.
*Make time to pause and reflect. Sit down with a pad of paper and a cup of tea or coffee. Or, perhaps you think best while doing a mindless household chore.
*Define goals that are measurable, doable, and specific. "I want to lose weight" is too vague. "I will write out a week's meal plan and follow it for 3 weeks" is more concrete.
*Write out tips to help you achieve those goals. If quitting smoking is one of your resolutions, take a sip of lemon juice whenever temptation strikes or nibble on sunflower seeds. Keep a pencil in your hand to keep it occupied, or play with a yo-yo. Have a list of diversions ready! Losing weight can be helped by a cup of herbal tea every afternoon to get you through a midday slump or the late-night munchies.
*Any regrets about the past year? To help focus on the future, write down your regrets on a scrap of paper and toss it into the fire. Janus, the two-faced symbol of the new year, would approve.
As Catherine Boeckmann said a few years ago in the Old Farmer's Almanac, whether we resolve to return borrowed farm equipment (as did the Babylonians) or drop a few pounds, by making New Year's resolutions, we're tapping into an ancient and powerful longing for a fresh start!
"Tis the season for comfort foods once the New Year's celebrations are over! Next week we'll talk about the diets that may be part of our New Year's resolutions. For now, let's just enjoy!
BASIC CHICKEN "N' DUMPLINGS
Takes about 45 minutes, start to finish, but only a minute or two of that is hands-on time. No refrigerated biscuits? It's almost as easy to mix up some drop biscuits from Bisquick or Jiffy Mix, or even your own recipe, and drop them into the boiling soup/broth mixture. Add herbes de provence or minced parsley to the dumplings if you like. See recipe below if you want a dressed up version of this old-time favorite. Either variety is wonderful served with cranberry sauce or spiced apple rings, perhaps a tossed salad or raw vegetables for munching, and hot green beans.
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 chicken bouillon cube, or 1 packet Golden Seasonings broth mix
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
salt and pepper to taste
1 (12 ounce) package refrigerated biscuit dough
Cut thighs into large chunks. In a large pot over high heat, combine the chicken with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and boil for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the cans of condensed soup. Season with salt and pepper. Pull or cut the biscuit dough into pieces, and add to the soup. After about 10 minutes, put on the cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the dumplings are cooked through. (They will puff up and rise to the top.
SUNDAY BEST CHICKEN "N' DUMPLINGS
Follow previous recipe, but while the chicken is simmering add parsley, coarse ground peppers, some minced onion, a bay leaf or two and a pinch of garlic powder, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add some sliced carrots or whole baby carrots and sliced celery if you like and simmer another 10 minutes. Then add some frozen peas and let the mixture return to a boil before adding the chunks of biscuit or the drop dumplings. Cook 10 minutes with the lid off, then 10 minutes with it on. Great with mashed potatoes, but also great without. You could add some chunked potatoes when you start the chicken and proceed as directed. You'll probably need to add more salt and pepper.
Note: Once the dumplings are cooked you can lift them out and transfer the whole thing to a slow cooker and then put the dumplings back on top. Unless your slow cooker is a lot different than mine, dumplings will not cook well in it, but they will keep warm nicely with it set on low.
CROCK POT APPLE CIDER
This is truly :"from scratch" apple cider!
6 quart slow cooker (reduce the amounts for a smaller cooker)
8-10 medium size sweet apples
3 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 teaspoons whole allspice
2 inch knob of fresh ginger (optional)
1 cup or less of granulated sugar, brown sugar, or your sweetener of choice, perhaps honey, maple syrup, or a combo, or equivalent low carb, low cal sweetener.
Baker Bettie, who shared this recipe, says it's best to use a variety of sweet apples. She recommends fuji, honeycrisp and gala. Wash the fruits. Chop apples and orange into large chunks, keeping the peels on. Put everything into the slow cooker, then fill with enough water to cover all of the apples. Don't make the water level so high that it will boil over. Turn it on low and put the lid on. Allow to brew for 8 to 12 hours. Longer is okay. Take a potato masher and smash everything. Strain the cider through a fine mesh sieve or through cheesecloth for a more clear cider. Return to crock pot and add sweetener of your choice to taste.
POLAR EXPRESS HOT CHOCOLATE
Read that alcohol and hot coffee are not really good ways to ward off the winter chill, but sugar is, so hot chocolate seems to be the way to go. This rich, creamy version of Hot Chocolate is great for those looking to warm up after an evening on the snowmobiles. Serve immediately or pour into a slow cooker to keep warm. Top with whipped cream, crushed candy canes, or sprinkles. Add brandy or rum if you're celebrating the New Year by imbibing your cheer. Or maybe some Bailey's Irish Cream or Kanikula. Replace part of the whipping cream with Half and Half or even milk if you want a less calorie-rich version.
6 to 8 cups milk
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Optional: top with whipped cream, marshmallows, crushed peppermint candy canes, cinnamon or sprinkles
Combine milk, sweetened condensed milk, cream, chocolate chips, vanilla extract, and salt in a large pot over low heat; cook, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted, 30 to 40 minutes. Add more milk to adjust flavor if desired. Transfer to slow cooker and keep warm if you're going out to play in the snow. Serve with toppings if you like.
The Country Cousin
Thought for the week: Want to stay young? Approach the New Year with a determination to view the world with enthusiasm. Enjoy every venture and adventure, and remember to thank God for everything life offers. As Samuel Ullman once said, "Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul."
Happy New Year! May your 2017 be filled with health and love, plus a downpour of blessings from God above!
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Recent stories, opinions and photos