Time to get ready for school

Fair time here in Podunk Hollow Community already. Payday time for the 4-H and FFA members who have raised hogs for their projects. Also, time to finish getting school supplies and new school clothes for the kids. Parents are counting down the days and trying not to show their joy at having a full-time caretaker for those who can wear the patience of Job. Enjoy these days, parents. All too soon those kids will be through school and out of the house and you will wonder where the years have gone. Hopefully, you had some special things you did during the summer to fit into that memory bank for the future.

I’m glad those clothes for cooler weather didn’t get put away too far as it is almost time to get them out again. There is still time to make use of that outside grill as there are still warm (hot) days coming our way before we have to turn on the furnace. The country folk are saying the Almanac says we are going to have a very hard winter. Personally, I haven’t read about it as whatever will come will be what we have to deal with, and I don’t want to get too upset about it until I have to do so.

Husband Norm’s dream of finding a warm place for the coldest months has hit him in the face. The community he thought would be perfect for being a “snow bird” was a huge disappointment, so he is back to square one. So much for hopes of retirement for this year. I am not expecting any reduction of my duties as I will never be able to retire and sit under the shade tree in summer and before the fire in a rocking chair in the winter, so I just “go with the flow,” whatever he wants to do. I will probably change my mind in a few months when those cold winds blow over the hilltop and the LP tank has to be refilled more than once a month. I hope gas prices are lower than last year….

Gremlins on the hilltop have played on my computer, against orders not to do so, and have gotten so many viruses in it that it is completely useless at this time. It will have to be completely erased and the programs reinstated. So, for now, I will pester folks at Norm’s office to do these columns. At this time, I have no idea if any of my writings can be saved from my home computer, so I may be repeating myself with the recipes more often than I want to do so. If I have requests to repeat a recipe, that is a different story, but to start from scratch is scary. I hope I don’t bore you all too much with repeats.

Our family reunion had about the same number of folks as usual, so we agreed to continue it and hope some more relatives fall out of the woodwork. After all, we usually get to see each other once a year – only at reunion time. If you have a family reunion, do try to get your young ones to come and get to know their relatives and hear the stories of the family’s past. They will appreciate it someday. All those extra people to invite to a graduation to increase the funds for college….

As the fall festivals start up, go and do some of your Christmas shopping. We don’t do much shopping these years as most of the grands- and great-grands – prefer that cold cash. I have given up on shopping for clothes as what I like is Yuk to them and totally not wearable around school. I had one family member that I always tried so hard to please, but she always wanted to exchange what I got her, so I started getting her things, like crafts from a festival, that weren’t returnable. Problem solved. Another gift idea for “hard to buy for folks” is baked goodies or jellies and preserves you are making at this time. I try to make certain that I use some fancy jars and lids just for that purpose.

Back when I did a lot of sewing, I would make some of my gifts to give that way. We don’t have to take out a second mortgage just to try to impress people at Christmas. That isn’t the purpose of that holiday anyway. Teach your kids to do a craft that they can give to grandparents, it will be treasured more than anything that can be bought – and less expensive, too.

All kids come home from school wanting a snack or something to tell them you are glad they are home – like a cookie. Today, my favorite trick for cookies is a mix that is made ahead and makes cookie-making a lot quicker. I try to keep it on hand all the time. Mixes that you make at home are less expensive than buying the same thing at the grocery and you know what is in it. Kids can help make them, too. Fruits are good for after-school snacks, as well as veggies already cut up in serving-sized pieces (and maybe some dip) if you want to keep the sugar down. (I like the cookies best…..)

Enjoy the last days of summer. “Put up” some of summer’s fruits and veggies to enjoy when the cold winds blow. Nothing is more satisfying than rows of canned veggies and spaghetti sauce and a freezer full of the fruits of fall. We will have time to enjoy the colors of our valley as the fall season slips up on us. The swing under the shade tree is the best place to be as the hot days continue. Take care and God Bless.

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COOKIE MIX

8 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups brown sugar, packed

4 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3 cups vegetable shortening

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, or heavy duty electric mixer, cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like cornmeal. Store in a large airtight container in a cool, dry place. Be sure to label with the date and contents, especially if you make different kinds of mixes, and use within 2 1/2 or 3 months.

This mix also makes a good gift. Package it in amounts for one recipe and label with ingredients to make the cookies. For Christmas giving, make up a batch later in the year so it will be fresh.

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SNICKERDOODLES

2 1/2 cups Cookie Mix

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 egg

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine first four ingredients and mix well. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl or dish. Shape the dough into 1 -inch balls, roll in sugar mixture, and place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet (or parchment paper lined). Flatten slightly. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned with cracked tops, in a preheated 400-degree oven. Do not overbake or they will be quite hard.

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CHOCLATE-CHIP COOKIES

3 cups Cookie Mix

3 tablespoons milk (may need a wee bit more)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1/2 cup nutmeats

1 cup chocolate chips or M&M’s

Combine first four ingredients and blend well. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips or candies. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased (or parchment paper lined) cookie sheets and bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Coconut or raisins are both good added to this instead of or with -nutmeats.

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PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

3 cups Cookie Mix

1/4 cup packed brown sugar,

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1/2 cup chunky-style peanut butter

Combine all ingredients and blend well. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on lightly greased (or parchment paper lined) cookie sheets. Flatten with fork tines. Bake in preheated 275-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are browned.

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TROPICAL COOKIES

2 cups Cookie Mix

2 egg yolks

1 can (8.5 oz) crushed pineapple, drained

1 1/4 cups shredded coconut

Maraschino cherries for garnish

Combine all ingredients except cherries and stir until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased (or parchment paper lined) cookie sheet. Top with maraschino cherries. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 12 to a5 minutes or until edges are golden.

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Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.