Enjoying the bounty of fall season

As this is written, it is a beautiful October morning. The leaves on the trees in the yard are starting to turn. That calls for a “drive” through the hills in our valley. The mountains are beautiful in the fall, but are more impressive only because they are taller and denser than our high hills. Folks come from all over to see what we have right here at home and too often we just take our own beauty for granted.

We do the same thing with all the attractions that we are privileged to have locally.

One local community had their Octoberfest this past weekend.

It might have been spelled differently than the one in Munich and not have been sponsored by the breweries, but still had music (maybe not so much singing in German), but the same type of food and comraderie as the original. And it didn’t require a passport and was much less expensive and everyone spoke English! Several cities and towns in our country have these and they can be enjoyed even more than traveling overseas to attend one. The only thing the one at Lowell didn’t have was beer! There is no alcohol allowed on the island, a restriction on the deed when it was deeded to the town, but there was plenty across the canal in the village and the general atmosphere was good for families there in the park. If you have an Octoberfest near where you live, make plans to attend next year. They are fun!

We may not be ready for the start of this busy time of year, but it is here so we had just better take our vitamins and smile. If one gets stressed out and grumpy, that only makes one more stressed and grumpy. Schedule in some “me time” and relax. Go grocery shopping alone and stop for a cup of coffee. If anyone complains, just tell them the store was very crowded! Of course, you can always go in the bathroom, lock the door, and put cotton in your ears so you can ignore those who are yelling for your attention.

Tell them you will come out when the house is quiet, and if they start stressing you again, just repeat the “hiding out” for a longer time. Sooner or later, everyone in the family will get the message.

Sometimes, Mom just has to assert herself for self-preservation. This is a busy time, but it should be a happy time for everyone, especially Mom.

We all have been saddened by the damage the rains and wind have done to some of our southern neighbors. The next time you start to complain about our weather, just think about what they are going through now and be thankful you live in our valley.

There will surely be ways to help them in the coming weeks, so do whatever you can for those affected.

Another happening that has saddened us all is the shooting in a school in Oregon. The thing that so many people forget is that guns don’t kill people, other people do. If guns are taken away for everyone, as some advocate, there will always be the criminal element that will have them. Everyone has the right to defend their family. One of the early things Hitler did as he began his horrible reign was to take all the guns away from his citizens. If people don’t like our laws or Constitution, they should leave.

A lot of harm was done when we did away with the places where those with mental problems could get help. They were just given “disability” checks and turned out on the street. How inhumane! Unwanted ones, many who need help and others who should be sent back to where they came from, flood our country. The “leaders” who have been elected to protect us have failed their jobs. If that had been in the commercial scene, they would not have kept their jobs. And we as a nation, have failed our responsibilities when we keep reelecting those who are taking our country down. Pray for America and for those who are trying to save our way of life!

Maybe we should make any elected official take and pass a history test before assuming office. That is required for those who apply for citizenship – and not every native born citizen could pass it. Isn’t that a shame on how far we have fallen. Those who fought and died for our country must be turning in their graves!

The needed thing for us to do is to teach our children and grandchildren the responsibility of being a citizen in this country. Give them a pattern of values – many of which are lacking today. Teach them honor and that nothing comes free – someone has to pay for everything, including freedom. Make our homes a place of contentment. Help our neighbors.

Do the things that make October meaningful for your family and cook some of the bounty of fall produce. Kale, pumpkin, winter squash, fruits like apples and grapes – and many other things that are good to eat and good for you.

Happy Fall and God Bless!

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GINGER HALLOWEEN COOKIES

1/3 cup soft shortening

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cup dark molasses

1/2 cup cold water

6 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons baking soda

3 tablespoons cold water

Mix together thoroughly the shortening, brown sugar and molasses. Stir in 1/2 cup of cold water. Sift together all dry ingredients except baking soda and stir into molasses mixture. Dissolve the soda in the 2 tablespoons cold water and stir in. Chill dough. On a lightly floured board, roll out dough to about 1/2 inch thickness (thick for cookies). Cut with pumpkin shaped cutter or round cutter. Place fairly far apart on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake until no imprint remains when touched lightly with your finger – about 15 to 18 minutes. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven. When cool, ice with Orange Icing, and make eyes, nose and mouth with raisins, chocolate chips, or candy corn.

NOTE: You can use this recipe for Gingerbread Men – just add an extra cup of flour.

*** EASY ORANGE ICING

3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup orange juice

Grated rind of one orange

1/3 cup very soft butter or margarine

Combine ingredients and beat until soft and creamy. Add a drop or 2 of orange food coloring for the Halloween faces.

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CARAMEL CORN

5 quarts popped corn (no butter!)

2 cups peanuts

2 sticks butter or margarine

2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

1 tablespoon molasses

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Mix popcorn and nuts together in a large bowl and set aside. Melt butter in saucepan, stir in sugar, corn syrup, molasses and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then boil gently without stirring for five minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and soda. Mix well and immediately drizzle this syrup over the bowl of popcorn. Quickly mix to coat evenly ( a wooden spoon works well for this). Turn the coated mixture onto 2 large, shallow baking pans and bake at 225-degrees for about one hour. Stir every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely, then break apart. Store in large plastic bag at room temperature.

NOTE: While this is still warm, it can be pressed into popcorn balls. Decorate with a face of candy corn. Wrap in cellophane and tie with ribbon to make individual treats.

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AUNT MADELINE’S FRESH APPLE CAKE

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup cooking oil

4 eggs

2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup orange juice

5 large apples, peeled and sliced

5 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Beat eggs. Add 2 cups sugar and oil. Combine dry ingredients (all except 5 T sugar and 2 t cinnamon) and add alternately with orange juice. Mix as for any cake. Peel and slice apples into a separate bowl. Sprinkle with five tablespoons sugar and cinnamon, then mix. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Pour in 1/2 of batter, than a layer of the apple mixture, using a little over half of it. Pour in remaining batter, than a layer of the remaining apples. Nuts can be sprinkled on top. Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for 90-105 minutes. Test with a toothpick after 90 minutes. (It must come out clean.) Cool 10 minutes, then invert onto serving plate.

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