December 26, 2009

How Smart Are the Woolly Bears?

(photo by Jon Yuschock,
The fuzzy "Woolly Bear" caterpillar is often seen crossing roads and sidewalks any time from Spring to Fall, but more often in the late Fall.  According to weather folklore, the longer the middle brown band, the milder and shorter the approaching winter will be.  The shorter the brown band, the longer and harsher the winter will be.

This seems to have started in the late 1600s when farmers wanted something from nature to help them predict the weather. 

So just how savvy are these woolly bears when it comes to predicting the winter?  That depends on what you want to believe!

The Old Farmer's Almanac mentions the relationship between stripes and weather. And there are some people who may buy a new, warmer winter parka based on the woolly bear's stripes. After all, the woolly bears seem to be correct 80-85% of the time.  And you have to admit that it is fun seeing these little guys in the fall and then speculating about the winter that may be coming.  Why, you can even use it as a conversation starter during your coffee break!

However, scientists insist that even though wide brown bands often do fit in with the mild winter at the time, sometimes woolly bears have been found living near each other but their brown bands have shown different predictions for the same winter!  Scientists speculate that the length of the colors may show the age of the caterpillar. As the woolly bear molts and gets closer to being an adult, it becomes less black and more brown. 
By the way, did you know the woolly bear is the caterpillar or the larvae of the Isabella Tiger Moth 

And did you know there are festivals honoring this cute little caterpillar?  There is the Woolly Bear Festival in Vermilion, Ohio, and the Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, N.C. 

December 19, 2009

Makes You Glad You Have Left Over Turkey

(photo by Darren Fisher,

What-To-Do-With-Left-Over-Turkey Salad

large bowl of greens of your choice
2 cups left-over cooked turkey pieces
1 cup cranberries
1/2 cup pecans 

1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup oil

Blend cranberry sauce, vinegar, sugar and half of the feta cheese in a blender. Slowly add oil.
Place greens on plate and top with turkey, pecans, cranberries. Pour dressing over this mixture. Sprinkle remaining feta cheese over top.

December 17, 2009

Delicious Any Time of the Year

It doesn't have to be a holiday to enjoy Cranberry Orange Bread. This recipe also makes perfect muffins.

(photo by Andrea Skjold,

Ingredients for Cranberry Orange Bread or Muffins:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup cranberries
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Fold in cranberries.
Add vinegar to milk; then combine with yogurt. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
If making bread, pour into greased bread pan.
If making muffins, fill greased muffin cups or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 cups full. (makes one dozen)
Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack.

December 12, 2009

This Time of Year

This time of year is perfect for Cranberry Bars.  Just look at the "holiday" ingredients.  People will ask you for the recipe, guaranteed!  (photo by Tracy Hebden,

Cranberry Bars
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups cold butter
1 cup sugar
3 cups quick-cooking oats

In a saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil.  Add cranberries and cook until they pop.  Add orange juice, peel, butter, cinnamon, and salt.  Cook 5 minutes more or until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in walnuts.  Set aside.

In a bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in butter until crumbly.  Add sugar and oats; mix well.

Spoon half into an ungreased 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Pat firmly into pan.

Spread filling over crust.  Top with remaining crumbs; pat lightly.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Cool.

December 11, 2009

Their Popularity is Soaring, So Know and Love Them!

(photo by Galyna Andrushko,

Tart . . . Tangy . . . we used to think of cranberries only as something that appeared as a sauce on the table on Thanksgiving.

Grandma, and maybe Aunt Betty, were the only people who actually ate much of it, though.

But now, you can find these red beauties being used in cereal . . . yogurt . . . bagels . . . cookies . . . soft drinks . . . salads . . . energy bars . . . cakes . . . breads . . . turkey, pork, chicken, and ham main dishes . . . and candy (with chocolate!).

And you can probably easily add some more to this list.

New recipes using fresh, frozen, or dried berries are popping up in cookbooks and the internet and quickly becoming favorites.
Here are two of my favorites.

Cranberry Glazed Hamballs

Mix and form into balls:
1-1/2 lb ham loaf mix
1-1/2 cups bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 can sliced pineapples
1/4 cup juice from pineapples
1 cup whole cranberry sauce

Place pineapple slices on bottom of pan.  Add ham balls.  Mix remaining dressing ingredients together and pour on top of ham balls.  Bake one hour at 325 degrees.

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Pork

4 pork chops or small pork roast
1/2 cup water
1 can pineapple chunks with juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 small onion, chopped

Brown pork in small amount of oil. Add water and cover and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.
Drain pineapple and mix rest of ingredients with juice in saucepan. Cook and stir until mixture thickens.
Then combine pork, pineapple, and juice mixture and cook a few minutes until bubbly. Serve over rice.

December 8, 2009

Bouncing Berry Alerts!

Bouncing Berry Alerts, that is, information and fun facts about cranberries.

Did you know that cranberries have small pockets of air inside that cause them to bounce?  Drop one on your kitchen floor and watch your cat pounce to play with it!  These pockets of air are also why cranberries float on water.

Cranberries were first called bearberries because bears like to eat them.  Later they were called crane berries because when the vine flowers blossom, they look like the head and beak of a crane.  After awhile, the name was shortened to cranberries.  And, of course, they are also called the bouncing berries or bitter berries.

Cranberries have lots of fiber, vitamin C, and other substances that make them a healthy food.  They are thought to help protect us from urinary tract infections, as well as cancer and heart disease.

Cranberry juice contains a chemical that blocks pathogens that cause tooth decay.

White cranberry juice is made from regular cranberries that are harvested before they turn red.

Honeybees are sometimes used to pollinate cranberry crops.

One 12-oz bag of cranberries has three cups of whole berries in it.

Cranberries can be kept in the refrigerator for one month, and in the freezer for nine months.

Cranberries are native to North Aerica.  Other native fruits are concord grapes and blueberries.

Native Americans pounded cranberries into a paste and mixed it with venison.  This was called pemmican.  They used cranberries as dye for blankets and also for medical treatment of arrow wounds.

Frozen cranberries can be used in recipes without thawing.

It is easier to chop or grind cranberries while they are still frozen.

There are about 200 cranberries in every can of sauce.

There are about 440 cranberries in one pound, and about 4,400 in a gallon of juice.

November 11, 2009

My New Favorite May Soon Be Yours, Too!

(photo by Elena Elisseeva,
Today I have off from work because of an appointment.  Since I didn't have the usual breathless rush to get to work on time, I decided to try a new recipe for breakfast, Cranberry Doughnuts.

I like cranberries anyway, but I am sure you will like this recipe even if you aren't a cranberry person.  I made a few mistakes that have nothing to do with the recipe.  For instance, I burned my finger by getting it too close to the hot fat (I do know better!).  And the first few doughnuts weren't done in the center because I was impatient and took them out too soon.  But other than that, my breakfast was a big hit, and this recipe is definitely a keeper!

I got it out of the October/November/95 Country magazine. It was submitted by Roberta Archer, Passadumkeag, Maine.  Thanks, Roberta, for sharing!  I can see why it was a winner.  It's easy, too.

Cranberry Doughnuts
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
Oil for deep-fat frying
Additional sugar

Directions:  In a bowl, beat egg; add sugar and butter.  Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; add to sugar mixture alternately with milk.  Stir in cranberries.

Heat oil in an electric skillet or deep-fat fryer to 375 degrees.  Drop tablespoonfuls of batter into oil.  Fry doughnuts a few at a time, turning with a slotted spoon until golden, about 2 minutes per side.

Drain on paper towels; roll in sugar while still warm. (I rolled some in granulated sugar, and some in confectioner sugar).  Yield: 1-1/2 dozen.  These won't last long, better make two batches!

November 8, 2009

Pumpkin Pizazz

If you are looking for a new pumpkin dessert, don't overlook this recipe!  I've had it for a long time and have made it again and again.  I don't remember where I got it, so I'm sorry I cannot give credit to the person with such good taste who gave it to me!   (photo by  Galyna Andrushko,

Pumpkin Pizazz

2-1/2 cups finely crushed gingersnaps
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk

3 cups cold milk
2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
2-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 cups whipped topping

Combine gingersnap crumbs and butter and press into ungreased 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and milk until fluffy.  Spread over the crust.  In another mixing bowl, beat milk and pudding mix for 1 minute.  Add pumpkin and pie spice; beat until well blended.  Fold in whipped topping.  Spread over cream cheese layer.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Cut into squares.  Garnish with additional whipped topping.

November 6, 2009

My Vote Goes To Jack Frost!

Have you heard the story about Jack Frost and how he is responsible for the gorgeous changing of leaves in the fall?  He  pinches the leaves with his icy fingers and some leaves  turn red. Then he goes from tree to tree with his paintbrush and adds yellow and gold colors. Of course, this only happens on frosty nights.

But if you don't like that story, here's another one.  The Native Americans told a legend to explain why leaves change color in the fall.  They respected the bear.  One day celestial hunters killed the Great Bear.  The Bear's blood rained on the forests, coloring some of the leaves red.  And then when the hunters were cooking and the fat splashed out of the cooking kettle, the other leaves turned yellow.

Or maybe you will like the legend told by the Cherokee Native Americans.  When only plants and animals were on earth, the Great Spirit told the plants and animals that if they could stay awake for seven days and nights, they would receive great power. But only a few could do that.   They were granted eternal color and power of night.  Thus, pine and cedar trees were allowed to stay green and live all year long.  But the other trees had to get rid of their leaves and sleep during the winter.

For a long time, I didn't know how the leaves changed colors in the fall.  Maybe I was absent from school the day the teacher taught the scientific facts about leaves changing color.  Or, maybe I  just wasn't listening! 

What really happens is that the colors in the leaves are always there.  It's just that the chlorophyll  (gives leaves their green color) covers the reds and yellows.  But then shorter days and cooler temperatures tell the plant to prepare for winter. The amount of chlorophyll fades, and the colored pigments in the leaves show through.

Yellow pigments are in hickory, birch, ash, poplar, and sycamore trees.  Red pigments are in maples, sumac, and oaks.

When the days are shorter and colder, I want to go home from work and stay at home! I don't want to go out again.  Just let me curl up with something hot to drink.

October 30, 2009

Celebrate Every Day!

Orjaga eja.
Orna eja.
Orjaga eja gu mod.
Orna eja gu efen mod.
Orna jera orjaga gega gu gegan mod.

This is a page from one of the early primers I made to use in teaching the Meyah people to read.  See October 3 Post  for information on my missionary work in Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

The Bible was in the process of being translated into the Meyah Language.  The people needed to be able to read these scriptures.

The primers used words and pictures of  Meyah kinds-of-things like sweet potatos, bows and arrows, pigs, cooking fires, and village houses.

The books told stories about everydayish events.  They told about a woman going to her garden to work for the day, or lighting her fire for cooking and warmth.  One book told of a man hunting for a wild pig, or making a bow or arrow.

We were located in a mountainous area.  Meya-speaking villages were spread for miles and miles from the central village of Testega.  So we had teacher-learner classes for a few Meyahs who traveled to Testega from the surrounding villages.  They came to learn how to teach their own villagers to read and write their own Meyah Language.

Some of those fellows lived a three or four days journey away.  They climbed trails that wove in and out, and up and down the mountains.  They balanced their way over logs across streams, and occasionally cut their way through grown-over brush.

In Testega, they worked to improve their own ability to read and write.  They also learned how to teach others to read and write by practicing on one another in class.  Then they returned to their own villages to teach their people to read and write in their tribal Meyah language.

I  was just thinking about how I used a small manual typewriter to type the books on stencils.  Later I spent hours turning the handle of the old mimeograph machine to duplicate the books. It was simply the way we had to do things.

Back then, I never even dreamed of the convenience and possibilities the internet would eventually give me.  Why, I can just do a simple search, and  get 2,759,354  responses!  I can order anything I want just by sitting at my computer and ordering it on line.  I can even carry that computer with me!  I can shop for birthday gifts without leaving my house.  And Christmas shopping has never been easier.

The Meyahs would certainly never have believed all this.  But then, I'm not sure I would have, either!

October 27, 2009

"Koom Essa" or "Come Eat"

My heritage is Pennsylvania Dutch. (See blog post  Too Soon Old And Too Late Smart! ) We like to cook and eat!  Our recipes are simple and hearty.  Many recipes have been passed down from mother to daughter, either by word of mouth or handwritten on paper scraps such as the backs of torn-off calendar pages.  Ingredients might be measured by "handfulls", "pinches", "enough to sweeten", or "salt to taste."

So, "Koom essa," or "Come eat".   This is how you may be invited to a Pennsylvania Dutch meal where there is plenty of good food!

(photo by Cathy Clapper,

Red beet eggs are a popular pickled  Pennsylvania Dutch food.  My family includes them in the menu at every family gathering, even our traditional Easter and Christmas dinners.

Recipe for Red Beet Eggs
2 cans red beets and juice
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
6 hard-boiled eggs, whole with shells taken off

Heat the beets, vinegar, and sugar together until sugar dissolves.  Add the eggs to this mixture; the juice needs to cover the eggs.

Make this recipe at least one day early so the eggs absorb the pickled taste and turn a deep red beet color.

October 18, 2009

Too Soon Old And Too Late Smart!

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, also known as "Amish Country."  The Amish are Pennsylvania Dutch, but not all Pennsylvania Dutch are Amish.

"Dutch" does not mean they are Dutch people from the Netherlands.  Rather, the German word for German is "Deutsch."  So they are really Pennsylvania Germans or Deutsch who somehow ended up being called Pennsylvania Dutch!  The Pennsylvania Dutch today are descendants from German-speaking immigrants.

I've been thinking about PA Dutch sayings or expressions I heard or spoke as a child.  However, when I left home at age eighteen, I quickly learned to change some of my words!  You'll understand why!

It wonders me . . .
Outen the lights.
I get so befuddled.
She writes so fancy like.
I can't make her out.
Eat yourself full.

And, of course, I could always entertain people by telling them some old stand-by PA Dutch idioms or proverbs.

We get too soon old and too late smart.
Kissin' wears out . . . cookin' don't!
No woman can be happy with less than seven to cook for!
A plump wife and a big barn never did any man any harm!
What's the use of a pretty table if there's nothing on it?

Can you add any Pennsylvania Dutch expressions?  Please comment.

October 14, 2009

Disgustingly Funny

I am involved in cat rescue.  One Sunday morning I was at an Apartment Building because of a cat situation.   I drove into the parking lot and got out of my car.

Immediately I saw a man running out of his apartment.  He kept on looking back as he ran.  My first thought was that someone had a gun and I should get right back in my car and get out of there fast!  But I was sort of mesmerized and just stood there watching.  My feet oddly seemed to be glued to the ground.

Then I saw huge, black billows of thick smoke shooting up from a car.  The car was parked next to some trees, a wooden fence, and the building.  Suddenly the car burst into flames.  It was quite impressive in a scary sort of way. 

While my feet were still glued to the ground, I saw a woman coming out of the same apartment the man had run from.  She was carrying a baby in one arm;  with her other hand, she was dragging a toddler who could barely walk.  AND she was trying to coax a slightly older child, who was lingering behind, to quickly come with her.

I glanced back at the man, who (by this time) was safely far away from the burning car.  He was calling to the woman, telling her to hurry!  But did he budge from his safe spot to help her with the children?  Oh, no.

It would have been funny if it wasn't so disgusting.  As a good friend told me, "That's the kind of stuff you see on movies."

  (photo by Dean Michell,

So what Christian movie titles could be connected to this cowardly father and man?  How about 
Veggie Tales/Where's God When I'm Scared?
Satan Never Sleeps
Piece of my Mind
Second Chances
The Big Question
Terminating Toxic Tonic of Disrespect
Worst Selfish Cowards  (I just made this one up!)

And what movie could be applied to the dear mother trying to get her children to safety?  How about Left Behind.

Do you have more suggestions of movies that could be connected to this worst selfish coward?  Please comment!

October 4, 2009

Fine and Feathery

We were learning about animal adaptations.  My second grade girls were quite indignant when I explained that it is the male birds who have the most beautiful, colorful feathers. But then I explained that the female birds had duller colors because they had the important job of hatching the eggs.  They needed to blend into the environment to help keep the baby birds out of danger.  That made the second grade girls smile and sit up a little straighter!  (photo by Andrew Buckin, Dreamstime)

Other animals may wear scales, skin, hard shells, or fur, but only birds have feathers. 

A tiny hummingbird has from 1,000 to 1,650 feathers.  (photo by Rinusbaak, Dreamstime)

Songbirds the size of chickadees have as many as 4,500.

But swans top them all--they have more than 25,000 feathers!

Now at this point, I can't decide if  I want to tell you some more serious facts about feathers or some sort-of-dumb bird jokes that you've probably heard before, but can still laugh. (or not!)  So YOU decide.  The serious facts are in green print.  Skip them to get to the jokes!

Feathers range in size from 0.05 inches on a bird's eyelid to 5 feet long tail feathers on a peacock. Wow!

If a bird loses a feather, another one grows in its place.  They grow fast, too, as much as a quarter inch or more a day!  Feathers become worn and are replaced about once a year through a process called molting.

We bundle up with coats, hats, and mittens.  But a bird's feathers regulate its body temperature.  That's called thermoregulation.  Fluffing their feathers traps many tiny pockets of air to hold in body heat and keeps out the cold.  In hot weather, the bird presses its feathers close to the body to eliminate the insulating air pockets so body heat can escape.

A Few Sort-of-Dumb Bird Jokes:

What do you call a crate of ducks?  a box of quackers

What does a duck like to eat with soup?  quackers
What birds spend a lot of time on their knees?  birds of prey

Why did the chicken cross the basketball court?  He heard the referee call fouls.

What did the sick chicken say?  "I have people pox."

Who do seagulls live near the sea?  Because if they lived near the bay, they'd be called bagels.

Come on, smile just a little bit!  You know you want to!

August 31, 2009

What's That Aroma Coming From the Oven?

Yesterday I was leafing through my recipe box which contains some of my mother's old recipes.  I found her recipe card for Raisin Pie.  It is well-worn with food stains on it.  So doesn't that mean it was a much loved recipe and used often?

Raisin Pie is also sometimes called Funeral Pie.  It was a popular dessert to take for the potluck meal following a funeral.  It could be made ahead of time, and would also keep well without refrigeration.

My Mother's Recipe for Old Fashioned Raisin Pie/Funeral Pie
2 cups raisins
2 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 TB white distilled vinegar
1 TB butter
Combine raisins and water and cook for about 5 minutes.  Blend brown sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, and salt.  Add to the raisins and cook until clear, stirring while cooking.  Remove from heat and stir in vinegar and butter.  Pour into pastry-lined plate.  Cover with top pastry.  Bake at 425 degrees until brown (approx. 30 minutes.

Do you need a good pastry recipe to go with this pie? This pastry recipe has vinegar as an ingredient, which helps the dough to be light and flaky.

Vinegar Pastry
3 cups flour
1 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
5 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
Mix flour, shortening, and salt until fine crumbs about the size of small peas.  Beat in egg.  Add cold water and vinegar.  Combine with flour and shortening mixture.
This recipe makes three single 9-inch pastries.  Bake at 425 degrees.  You can freeze the unbaked dough, or store it in the refrigerator about two weeks.
So what's your favorite pie?