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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: February 7, 2018

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln!...

Old Mr. Groundhog did not see his shadow around here on Friday, Feb. 2 - it was snowing too hard. Nonetheless, it looks like we will have at least six more weeks of winter.

Temperatures have been brutal since it stopped snowing. Thermometers in areas west and north of Crivitz hit 24 below and lower early Tuesday morning, and and repeated the plunge Tuesday night. Forecasters aren't predicting significant relief in the near future.

FUN TIME

If the weather moderates just a little, you might consider going on an hour-long evening snowshoe hike through the Peshtigo River Recreational Park in the City of Peshtigo on Valentine's Day, starting at 5:30 p.m. What could be more romantic than that?

No charge, but you need to make reservations in advance by contacting Dave at the City's Parks and Recreation office. Shoes and snowshoes can be provided, again no charge. Ann Bartels of the Marinette County Land Information Department will lead the hike.

MARDI GRAS TIME

Since Ash Wednesday this year falls on Feb. 14, the first day of Lent is also Valentine's Day. Let's take time to make the day special for our loved ones, even while we get busy preparing our souls for Easter. It can be done. After all, Lent and Valentine's Day are both all about love!

Celebrate Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras before Wednesday. Then prepare a special meatless breakfast or dinner treat to enjoy on Feb. 14 before going off to church for Ash Wednesday services and the start of your own personal Lenten journey.

WHY ASHES?

The Bible has many references to ashes being symbols of sorrow and penance. The ashes with which foreheads are marked during Ash Wednesday services today still symbolize repentance and mortality, with the spoken reminder: "Remember Man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return."

LIFE AND DEATH

However, ashes can be a reminder of much more than death. They also serve as a reminder of resurrection, and new life to come. Our friend Father John compared it to regrowth after a forest fire, like the horrendous fires that burned so fiercely out west this year.

Once the fires are out, only ashes are left. Forests and homes and dreams have been destroyed. Then the healing rains come. Eventually the landscape turns green again. New life starts. New forests grow, and often the new growth is better than the old. Homes are rebuilt. Lives are reconstructed.

The ashes on Ash Wednesday are an outward sign that things can get better, we can get better. That is what Lent, the time of preparation for Easter, is all about.

HONOR THY PRESIDENT?

President's Day is coming up on Monday, Feb. 19 but that holiday means absolutely zilch to me. Not all presidents deserve to be honored for what they accomplished, or even for what they tried to accomplish. Some should have been imprisoned.

However, the birthdays of two of our greatest presidents - the two men who have had the longest lasting impact on this nation's history - are another thing entirely. George Washington (Feb. 22) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) deserve to be remembered and honored. Our nation's school children need to learn about what they stood for and what they accomplished.

The rest of the presidents? Some were good, some not so much. A few, we'd be a whole lot better off if they had never taken that oath of office. Voters do make mistakes.

Generations past tolerated those mistakes, made the best of things, and hopefully changed things at the next election.

The Southern states began succeeding after Abraham Lincoln was elected, but this was not a matter of rioting, looting, burning, smashing store windows in their own cities. They were acting in what they believed was a lawful manner. They believed, under the doctrine of States' Rights, that just as their states had chosen to join the United States of America, they could choose to withdraw.

Right or wrong about that, they were defeated in the Civil War and forced to remain in the Union, subject to Federal law. Until he was shot, President Lincoln was working hard to make the Confederate states' return to the Union as peaceful, friendly and successful as possible. He was not seeking to punish, but to move on to better things for the nation as a whole.

ON THE SOAP BOX

UNPATRIOTIC GENERATION


One thing that has made America stand out from the rest of the world is that we have behaved as members of a Republic ought to behave. As citizens, Republican or Democrat, when our side lost (except for the Civil War), we acquiesced to the will of the majority (as expressed at the polls) and moved on.

Never, until very recent years, did Americans stage disgraceful riots or demonstrations marring our reputation in the world. Like spoiled children throwing a tantrum, the Trump haters have tried to scream loud enough to force the majority of us to give them what they want.

Giving in would spell the end of America as a Republic! Elections would mean nothing.

Why can't these liberals (and the professors who teach them) understand that thumbing their noses at voters is an insult to the United States of America that our forefathers (and theirs) fought and died for, and to the ideals for which it stands!!!WON'T REPRESENT THE PRESIDENT

So now, several of our Olympic athletes are saying they will not represent President Donald Trump during the international competitions. One at least has said she will not accept an invitation to the White House.

That's her privilege. But just as she (and/or they) chose to insult the majority in this nation who voted for Mr. Trump, those who were part of that majority can chose not to support Olympic athletes this year. We can refuse donations, refuse to watch them on TV, tell sponsors that Olympic athletes do not represent us and we will not support sponsors who support them. We can boycott products these UnAmerican athletes endorse.

As individuals, each member of the US Olympic team has a right to support whoever they prefer, and oppose whoever they do not like. But as a team, they are supposed to represent the United States of America, and that means when speaking (and performing) as a member of the team, they they should show respect for the rest of us.

No one has to like the President, but everyone should show him the respect due to the person the majority of us elected to our nation's highest office. Accepting that and living with it, and then working honorably for a change the next time around, is part of being an adult American.

When speaking strictly as individuals, Olympic athletes, like anyone else, can campaign as hard as they want to against anyone they do not like. Then it's their business. But when speaking as members of a team representing the United States, they need to represent us, not their own personal opinions!

DOCTOR'S ADVICE

Seems there was an elderly gentleman who developed a serious case of BO. Got so bad he finally went to the doctor for help with the stench.

Doctor agreed, even before the exam, that there certainly was a problem. After he looked the man over, Doc asked how often he bathed.

"Well, Doc," said the patient, "My old legs aren't as good as they used to be, and I can't get into the shower. But I fix a nice pan of soapy water every morning. Then I start from the top and wash down as far as possible. Then I start from the bottom and wash up as far as possible.

"Hmmm," the doc considered. "Do it again tonight, and again tomorrow morning, only this time, wash Possible too!"

Reminds me of a story my father used to tell. It was time for conferences with the nun who taught my sister's class. Dad went there directly after working all night at the paper mill.

While waiting his turn, he noticed an evil smell from the lady in front of him. Wondered if she ever bathed. He stepped to the desk. Same bad odor came from the good sister he was speaking with. Was relieved to get out of that room and return to the car. To his dismay, he found that the scent had followed him. Only after getting home did he discover that some jokester at work had tucked an unwrapped piece of Limburger Cheese into his jacket pocket!

COOKIN' TIME

This is the season for warming foods, but it is also time for more meatless meals than usual if you are observing Lenten abstinence rules. Before Lent starts, or even after, treat your loved ones to a wonderful Mardi Gras King Cake. Choose from a variety of fillings, and from an easy, easy crescent roll version or the traditional yeast dough type. They're both delicious and well worth the effort. Can be made the night before but they're better enjoyed as soon as possible after baking.

LO CARB ZUCCHINI PIZZA BOATS

These are great for a Lenten meal with baked fish fillets. Add oven-crisped Tater Tots and toasted Italian garlic bread if you're not on a low carb diet. Entire meal cooks in the oven in no time flat!

4-5 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon oregano, fresh or dry

1 cup marinara sauce

1 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Salt and peper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper and set aside. In a small bowl, combine garlic, olive oil. and oregano. Wash the zucchini, cut in half, and scoop out a very slight hollow down the middle of each one. Lay them on the prepared baking sheet and brush with the garlic/oil mixture. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Top each half with about two tablespoons of marinara sauce, then with a topping of shredded mozzarella cheese, pretty much as much as you can reasonably keep on top. If there is any of the seasoned olive oil mixture left, drizzle it over the top, getting a little on each zucchini half. Bake 18-20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and almost golden. Remove from oven and serve warm.

EASY MARDI GRAS KING CAKE

Use the filling recipe listed here, or one of the others given below. Even almond paste out of the can with nothing added is good. To be traditional some sort of token should be tucked into the filling. A dried bean, whole almond or little figurine are suggested. Whoever gets it is supposed to have good luck for the coming year. Or throw next year's Mardi Gras party. You pick the penalty or reward. Personally, I'd pick a token big enough to be sure that nobody chokes on it. Mardi Gras cakes are decorated with gold, green, and purple icing or sugars. The colors represent, in order, power, faith, and justice.

2 cans of refrigerated crescent roll dough

Filling of your choice

Frosting, optional (canned is okay)

Purple, green, and gold colored sugars

Egg wash (1 beaten egg whisked with 2 tablespoons milk)

Food coloring for purple, green and gold icing, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet or large round metal pizza pan with cooking oil, or line with parchment paper. Unroll crescent dough and separate into triangles. Arrange these on the prepared baking sheet, points toward the center, edges overlapping by about a quarter of an inch, but not pressed together. You should end up with a circle. When you're all done, the cake will look like a spectacular donut. Press crescent roll seams together about halfway between the center and circumference of the dough circle. Spread the filling in a ring where you have pressed the seams together. Add the King Cake token, if you're using it. Fold the wide outer edge of each crescent triangle toward the center to just nicely cover the filling all the way around, then fold each point from the center over the filling toward the outside of the ring, completely enclosing the filling. Tuck points under if necessary. Brush with the egg wash. Bake as is for a traditional version with icing. Or, brush on the egg wash and sprinkle on the colored sugars before baking in bold, wide stripes of color. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. If you've opted for the more traditional King Cake, follow the icing and decorating instructions below.

CREAM CHEESE FILLING

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened ( 16 ounces total)

1 egg

3/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

Using an electric mixer, mix cream cheese until smooth; Add egg and blend well; Add sugar, salt and vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

ALMOND PASTE FILLING

Crumble 1 cup (10 ounces) almond paste into a large bowl with 4 tablespoons softened butter and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Beat until the butter is incorporated. Add 1/2 cup white sugar and 2 cups fresh soft white bread crumbs.

ALMOND FLOUR FILLING

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup sugar

pinch salt

zest of 1/2 orange

1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons rum

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium bowl combine the almond flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Mash in the butter until it's completely incorporated. Stir or beat in the eggs one at a time, along with the rum and almond extract. The mixture may not look completely smooth, which is normal. Cover and chill until you're ready to complete the cake, which is really a coffee cake.

ALMOND PASTE FILLING

Crumble 1 cup (10 ounces) almond paste into a large bowl with 4 tablespoons softened butter and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Beat until the butter is incorporated. Add 1/2 cup white sugar and 2 cups fresh soft white bread crumbs.

RAISIN RUM FILLING

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 cup raisins

Rum (for soaking the raisins)

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

The night before, measure half a cup of raisins, and then pour in enough rum to cover. Cover and set aside on the counter. When you're ready to start baking, make the filling first. Drain the raisins. (Save the rum for a tasty drink later, or to add to something else.) Whirl the cream cheese and brown sugar in a food processor until evenly combined; add the pecans and raisins, and pulse to chop and combine. Filling doesn't need to be completely smooth. Set aside.

COLORED FROSTING: Stir together powdered sugar and melted butter. Add milk to reach desired consistency for drizzling; stir in vanilla; Divide frosting into four batches, and color green, yellow, and purple. Add both red and blue food coloring for purple. Keep one batch white for accent.

COLORED SUGARS: Into three separate zip-lock bags, put food coloring: two drops green in one, two drops yellow in one, and then a drop each of blue and red for purple into the third. Add a half cup sugar to each. Seal, then shake and squeeze bags vigorously to evenly mix color with sugar. Decorate the cakes in wide, bold stripes of color.

Thought for the week: Lord, with the coming of Lent, help me to make the right decisions, decisions that will lead to resurrection and life everlasting, to basking for eternity in the warmth of Your love. Amen.

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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