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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: November 29, 2017

Advent Begins!...

Deer season started out snowy and ended up being dry and brown. Thanksgiving Day has come and gone, and so have the visitors that deer season brings. The winds of November are busy blowing December in. We've had some extremely cold days, and several very fine ones. Let's enjoy what we can.

Christmas lights are shining everywhere, and shoppers are preparing for the big day. In one short month, 2017 will make way for 2018. How fast the time passes!

CHRISTMAS EVENTS

Advent, the time of spiritual preparation for Christmas, starts on Sunday, Dec. 3. For most of us, it's also very much time to prepare our homes and our pantries for Christmas as well.

St. Nicholas' Day is on Tuesday, Dec. 5, and tradition calls for small gifts for good kids, lumps of coal for bad ones. Better watch out! An advent Calendar, the kind with little doors that open to reveal treats, would be especially appropriate St. Nick's gifts for good little kids. Consider making your own if you can't find one to buy!

The Christmas In Marinette event on Saturday, Dec. 2. includes Mr. and Mrs. Santa as special guests on Stephenson Island after their arrival in a big parade starting at 1 p.m. at the intersection of Water Street and Main.

The annual St. Thomas Aquinas Academy Christmas Tour of Homes takes place on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1 and 2, and there's an event at the school Friday, Dec. 1 to benefit the Shop with a Cop Christmas giving project.

On Saturday, Dec. 2 the Northeast Chapter of Low Buck Vintage Riders hosts its 14th annual vintage and antique snowmobile show and swap meet at the Middle Inlet Town Hall and fire department building at the junction of Hwy. 141 and County X. No charge for admission, and Middle Inlet Fire Department benefits from sale of foods and beverages.

Groups everywhere are hosting breakfasts, Santa visits, cookie and craft sales and more. Watch for their articles. Don't miss out on the fun.

HOW MANY DAYS?

Remember the old days, when newspapers posted "Page One" notices with the count-down of how many shopping days until Christmas?

Back then, most merchants were closed on Sundays, and regular hours were usually 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on Fridays, when downtown stores were open until 9 p.m. There were no shopping malls, at last not in TIMESland. Now, most stores are open every day, generally until 9 p.m., and a few never close at all, so all the days between now and Christmas are shopping days.

Back in the day, Dad went to work and Mom went shopping. Now, Moms have to work too, to make ends meet, and both of them shop when they can, which means stores need to have longer hours and be open more days.

PRICE SHOCK

Speaking of shopping, came across list comparing a few basic prices in 1976 and 1985. Shocking how the prices went up in that decade. The numbers get even more shocking when you look at where those prices are today.

On the other hand, incomes have gone up too, and we here in TIMESland can buy more of some things for our bucks than folks can in some other places. Closest comparison I found was a web site that says it would cost $5,344 in Chicago today to buy the same quality of life you can get in Green Bay for $3,600, and other studies say the cost of living in TiMESland is slightly less than that in Green Bay. Maybe that, plus the beauty, friendliness and recreational opportunities in our area, explains why so many retirees move here. That, and the fact that for many, the move is a return home.

Back to the shopping list. Housing and cars are the big ticket items. The old chart says a median home in the US in 1976 cost $43,340, by 1985 it would have been $89,331, and today that same house would probably cost $129,600.

Definitely should have invested in real estate!

Ditto for rent. The 1976 average was $220 a month. By 1985 it was $375, and today, probably $540, but another site says today's average cost to rent a 2-bedroom home is $814 a month.

Gasoline prices are up too, but not as bad as they were a few years ago. Back in the early 1960s you could get a gallon of gas for maybe 23 cents. By 1976 it cost 60 cents a gallon, 1985 it was $1.09, and today the price at the pump was $2.49.

Some food prices have pretty much held their own, but many have more than doubled since 1985, when sugar cost 98 cents a pound, up from 74 cents in 1976; milk was $2.31 a gallon, up from $1.65; bacon was $1.65 a pound, up from $1.05; eggs were 60 cents a dozen, up from 48 cents; hamburger was $1.15 a pound, up from 80 cents, and an average loaf of bread was 96 cents, up from 35 cents less than a decade earlier. Check the ads for today's prices. Sometimes we can get huge bargains!

Remember back when meat prices started shooting the moon, I threatened to turn vegetarian if meat cost more than $1 a pound. The price did happen, but the vegetarian part didn't!

On the other hand, incomes have also risen. Median household income was listed at $16,095 in 1976, $22,138 in 1985, and between $43,000 and $52,000 today. It's a can't win, apparently. Wages are raised to cover cost of living increases, and then the cost of everything goes up to pay the higher wages.

ACCIDENTAL INVITE

Read a heartwarming story on the web about a grandmother in Arizona who accidentally invited a total stranger to Thanksgiving dinner last year. He accepted, and has become something of an adopted grandson, and was back to dinner again this year, with his girl friend.

It all started when Wanda Dench sent a text message inviting her grandson to Thanksgiving dinner at her home in Mesa, AZ. She signed the invite, "Grandma." Didn't know her real grandson had a new phone number, or that 17-year-old Jamal Hinton, of Tempe, AZ had the old one.

Hinton got the message, but was confused. He eventually asked Dench to send him a picture of herself. She did. "You are not my grandma," he replied. She's white. He's black. "Can I still get a plate tho?" he texted back, along with a picture of himself.

"Of course you can. That's what grandma's do...feed everyone," Dench answered. And that's when the friendship began. Hinton came to dinner, the family all had some good food and good laughs. He's been calling about once a week since then. Says he looks at Dench as his adopted grandmother, and she returned the sentiment.

"He always has an open invite to our house," Dench told an interviewer. "I do believe there are no accidents in life."

She added, "For him to continue with the relationship, I'm just really pleasantly surprised"We're more of extended family and, best of all, friends." 

After Hinton and his girl friend spent the afternoon at the Dench home and enjoyed Thanksgiving Dinner there, they left to join the Thanksgiving celebration at his other grandmother's house.

"The world is becoming a better place than it used to be," Hinton said of the whole experience. "I'm loving it. I love that you don't have to know someone or know their background to be nice to them."

THE SANTA SPIRIT

When most folks have a birthday, they get gifts. Or at least they hope to. With Jesus it was different. In our hearts he planned a desire for us to give gifts to everyone else to celebrate His birthday. Thanks to the generosity of Jesus, we have what I call the Santa Spirit.

My favorite (and only) son came up with this explanation of the Santa Spirit when his little boys grew into bigger boys with questions about the reality of Santa Claus:

"Absolutely Santa Claus is real," he told them. "He is the Spirit of Christmas with a personality. He is a spirit so strong that he forces parents and other adults all over the world to get out and buy Christmas gifts for their children and the children of others who may have to do without.

"Because he is a spirit, he can get to every home on every continent in the world on a single night. And because he is so strong a spirit, almost no one can resist. Because there is a Santa Claus, because there is a Spirit of Christmas, there will be presents under the Christmas tree again this year."

Love that explanation, and I'm told he came up with it on his own. Not sure about that, but do know it didn't come from me.

What he didn't mention to his kids is that sometimes no matter how much some parents simply cannot buy gifts for their kids, no matter how hard the Santa Spirit pushes them. That's where the rest of us can come in. Now and then, the Santa Spirit inspires some of us to help provide Christmas gifts for youngsters who might otherwise have none.

A case in point is the children in Puerto Rico, an island still reeling from the after effects of the devastating hurricane that destroyed pretty much everything there on Sept. 20. Most of us hope the people there will have wonderful Christmas, and that there will be food and gifts for everyone. That may not be the case.

On much of that beautiful island there is still no electricity, and no readily available or affordable clean drinking water. With parents struggling just to obtain food and water, most children from the poorer families are unlikely to see Christmas gifts this year, unless folks from the outside step in to help.

Lots of us would like to do our small part, but want the personal touch.

That's were Debra and her friend Judie come in. Debra lives in Middle Inlet. Her friend Judie Curcio, originally from new England, moved to Puerto Rico four years ago after vacationing there for years.

She fled the island in advance of the Sept. 20 hurricane and has been staying in Texas since then. She notes sadly that millions were spent restoring electricity on the island, and some of the lights were back on. Then, about three weeks ago, all electric service was lost again in the northern half of San Juan and seven other major cities. She's told it's back on now, but still rather unreliable. Lack of electricity also means lack of clean running water in most places.

Her home still has no dependable electricity or running water, but she's ready to go back. If the systems fail again she has generators and can buy drinking water. She'll be comfortable.

However, she's concerned that many of her Puerto Rican neighbors cannot afford to be as comfortable.

She has been hit hard by the Santa Spirit, and told Debra she feels impelled to help make Christmas this year special for as many young Puerto Rican neighbors as she can. She feels every youngster, no matter how poor, deserves some sort of gift at Christmas.

Judie bought one shipment of gifts in Texas and sent it for friends in Puerto Rico to distribute, but won't do that again. Just the shipping cost her $300, which she could have spent on gifts.

She said the major "big box" stores on the island are open now, but nobody's shopping. No matter how hard parents may have been hit by the Santa Spirit, they have no money to buy anything that's not absolutely necessary.

So now, when Judie gets back to the island, she plans to buy as many gifts as she can at one or more of the five "big box" stores on the island and deliver them personally to families that need them.

She hopes the Santa Spirit will inspire some generous folks to help her buy more gifts than she can afford on her own, and has asked Debra to help her spread the word.

She and Debra are hoping some of the TIMESland folks will see this as a way to fulfill their "Spirit of Christmas" urge for gift giving. If so, contributions (toys or checks) can be sent to Judie Curcio, P. O. Box 1737, Boqueron, P.R. 00622.

Debra has been a friend of Judie for a number of years, and has been a guest at her homes in Puerto Rico and Texas.

Debra's daughter, Jody Brockman of Appleton, who introduced them, will arrive in Puerto Rico sometime in December to work with a crew rebuilding the electric power distribution grid. Jody will be staying with Judie much of the time, and is looking forward to helping deliver at least some of the gifts.

This is not a tax deductible contribution, but rather a one-on-one, hands-on sort of giving. We'll let you know how it works out.

COOKIN' TIME

HUNTER'S MEAT PIE

No venison? Use hamburger if you must. Tastes almost as good.

2 cups mashed potatoes

1 pound venison (lean ground, or other big game)

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 red onion (chopped)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

2 stalks celery (diced)

1/2 cup red bell pepper (diced)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 eggs (beaten)

1 cup cottage cheese

2 tomatoes (sliced)

1 cup Marble Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Spread mashed potatoes evenly in a 2-quart casserole dish; set aside. Brown the venison in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crumbly and no longer pink, set aside. Heat the canola oil in the skillet, then stir in the red onion, garlic, celery, and red bell pepper. Cook until the onion has softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in cooked venison, and season with Worcestershire, salt, and pepper. Spoon mixture onto potatoes in the casserole dish. Stir together eggs and cottage cheese in a small bowl; spread evenly over meat mixture. Top with tomato slices, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven until set, about 20 minutes.

MADEOVER TURKEY CASSEROLE

If you still have Turkey leftovers lurking in the fridge, this is a great way to use them up. If you have none from this year, consider this plan for Christmas or next year's Thanksgiving. Consider also using leftover dressing as the base, but cook more celery and onion and add to it first. If you're tired of turkey right now, make the casserole now, wrap tightly in foil and freeze. Defrost ahead of time and serve it up when time is short. Can be heated from frozen too, but takes a bit longer.

1/2 cup butter

1 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup minced onion

8 ounce package bread stuffing cubes

1 cup chicken (or turkey) broth

2 cups turkey gravy

2 cups chopped cooked turkey

15-ounce can cream-style corn

3 cups mashed potatoes

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat butter in an oven-proof skillet. Cook and stir celery and onion until they get soft, about 10 minutes. don't get them brown. Stir in bread cubes and broth. Mix turkey and gravy and spoon over the stuffing mixture. On top of this put the corn, and on top of that put the mashed potatoes. Bake in the pre-heated oven until heated through, about 20 minutes.Sprinkle on cheddar cheese. Return to oven and bake about 10 minutes more. (This is heresy for a Wisconsinite, but try skipping the cheese and sprinkle some French fried onions (the kind from a can) on top instead of the cheese. Yum!).

SLICED FIG COOKIES

This old fashioned refrigerator cookie recipe is from an old, old cookbook. The original calls for sifted cake flour, and tells us to sift the brown sugar too. Isn't necessary nowadays but was back when folks kept flour in a bin and sugar in who knows what, and went to town three or four times a year. Anyway, bake some of these now, and save the rest of the prepared cookie dough rolls until closer to Christmas. Serve them warm from the oven whenever friends drop in - or the Cookie Monster strikes!

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

2-3/4 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup ground figs

1 cup chopped nuts

Bet egg and milk together. Sift dry ingredients together. Cream butter and sugar together, then add the mixed dry ingredients and liquid ingredients alternately. Stir in the figs and nuts. If it's too sticky, add more flour. form into rolls about 2 inches in diameter and wrap in waxed paper (or foil or plastic wrap). Chill until firm. Slice about 1/8 inch thick. Place on baking sheet and bake in oven preheated to 375 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes. Makes about six dozen cookies.

Thought for the week: Advent - the time to prepare our homes and our hearts for the coming of Christmas - officially begins on Sunday, Dec. 3. Lord, let us not get so wrapped in all the things we must "get done" that we forget to leave time for You. Help us remember that, as Pope Francis said in a December, 2013 Twitter message: "Advent is a journey towards Bethlehem. May we let ourselves be drawn by the light of God made man"

Country Cousin

(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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