Egg Decorating, and other hazards of Easter!

“That lasted about five minutes.”

“You sound shocked,” I said to my neighbor, Margo, as we listened to the refrigerator door pop open, and slam shut, the cupboards bang back and forth.

Margo brushed the hair out of her eyes with her purple, dyed fingers and deftly peeled a hard cooked egg and popped it whole into her mouth.

“You kidddddss goeth to your roooomm,” Margo stammered, grinned, and chewed all at the same time.

I shook my head and watched the kids slam the last cupboard door. I think I knew we were in trouble after the kids dropped the last dye pellet in vinegar and the dog knocked it off the table and everyone was crying.

“It’s nothing.” Margo spoke clearly. “But your fault. If you hadn’t hid the Easter candy in the oven, we would still be dying Easter eggs.”

“And how did they find out the candy was in the oven?” I asked suspiciously.

Margo held up her hands in disgust. “After wiping up the dye, I came back up from under the table and I used the oven handle for support, the kids saw inside, and it was over.” She sighed.

Peeping over my coffee cup I murmured. “I guess so.” Nevertheless, it was true. I have run out of hiding spaces in my house. We must have a dozen Easter baskets and where do you put them? They do not fit in a drawer. If I store them in the garage, months later I find them holding nuts and bolts. It was discouraging. I felt like a fool. The way it stands now I can’t depend on any of my old hiding places.

You know the good ones. The oven lid drawer. Inside beach bags, the laundry bin, the canisters marked “flour” that no one has ever looked in except me.

I find Thank-You notes in those places now.

“You want to talk about hiding things,” I said to Margo who was now eating the Easter candy. “My husband, the thief, has more things that belong in this kitchen hiding in that garage of his.”

Margo stirred her coffee slowly. “Let me guess. You found your roaster pan and he used it to change the oil in the car.”

“Yes! OH, yes,” I said with relief. ‘Remember when I told you that things were mysteriously disappearing? My sewing scissors, kitchen knives, pots, juice jugs, the list goes on.”

“My goodness, that’s a lot of things,” Margo said, unconsciously lining the yellow marshmallow chicks in a row.

“Well, last night I go walking into the garage and my husband barks at me to stay back. “Why can’t I come in the garage? I asked defensively as I walked toward him.

“I don’t want you to touch anything!”

“Get serious,” I said, resting my elbows on the workbench, cupping my face in my hands, and looking up at him. (Sometimes you must act coy to catch them.)

His eyes narrowed and I had the feeling he knew, I knew, he was hiding something. We stared at each other. Then he half turned, and I heard a thud. On the floor was my best bathroom towel with an engine on it.

“Well, I’ve got to go home,” Margot said, as she leaned back in her chair and flipped a jellybean into the air and into her mouth. ‘I’m starved. I have to go home and fix dinner.”

As she exited thru the kitchen door, she poked her head back through and said, “Oh by the way, what are you going to do with five dozen hard-cooked eggs?

Here’s what you do:
SCOTCH EGGS
One of my all-time favorites. Great hot or cold. Portable and very filling.
¾ lb. pork sausage
12 hard-cooked eggs
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
Fat for deep frying
Divide sausage into 12 equal portions. Shape each portion into a flat patty and wrap completely around one peeled, hard cooked egg, then roll in breadcrumbs until completely coated. Place Eggs in preheated deep fat until golden brown and heated through, 6-9 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper.
PICKLED EGGS
For fun have kids throw a few peeled, hard-cooked eggs into the pickle jar. They are tasty even if a little green, other wise: 2 cups white vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 medium onion, sliced and separated into rings, I teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon whole mixed pickling spice, 12 hard-cooked eggs.

In medium saucepan combine all ingredients except eggs. Simmer over low heat, uncovered, until onion is tender.
Arrange eggs in each of two one-quart jars (save your pickle jars) with tight fitting lids.

Pour one cup vinegar mixture over eggs in each jar. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight to blend flavors. Eggs may be stored in the refrigerator up to two weeks.

HOPPY EASTER!

Happy Valentines Day

This week, Shanna takes the role of a classic crime detective to find the mystery—and the dinner—on the Spirit of Washington’s “Mystery Dinner Train.”

I had been a private gumshoe too many years to go for a comy gag like that. The train conductor had told me that what I was missing was inside the train.

I stood. My eyes turned toward the mountains. I was looking for some short-cut that would lead me somewhere, anywhere, to the perfect Valentine for my schweetheart.

The conductor’s smile pulled the corners of his mouth out half an inch. He reached inside his coat, prowled in a pocket, came out with a ticket. “Here.” He said, pushing the ticket in my hand. “Try it.”

Without looking back, I laughed at myself. I had time to turn around and see the words “Spirit of Washington” sketched across the locomotive. “Maybe, just maybe this could be THE Valentine gift,” I sighed. The lightness had gone out of my step when I realized my Valentine could see through a brick wall as quickly as anyone. This wears whiskers! I thought of all the past candy and cards. Enough already, I had to keep it a surprise!

I was looking for more than that fancy pants three-course gourmet meal. I needed a little mystery to keep this romance alive! Just then, the Conductor handed me a brochure. Mayhem, intrigue, and a whodunit good time was available on a MURDER mystery train!

My eyes quickly swept the room. I was sitting inside the Olympic railroad car built-in 1937. People were boarding as the servers helped them find their dining tables. I looked at them. They looked at me. My hunch says all of them could be the murderer! I would trust no one and suspect everyone!

I was breathing heavily with the effort of adding more honey butter on my roll. I had already had plenty of the herbed cream cheese and salmon rillette. It was a matter of minutes before the crisp romaine tossed with poppy seed vinaigrette dressing topped with fresh grapefruit, and toasted almonds were about to arrive.

I asked the waiter, Paul, for the recipe. He bared his uppers and lowers. He was more than glad to share:

MRS. T’s Poppy Seed Vinaigrette Dressing

¼ cup of sugar

1 ½ T onion juice

1 cup of vegetable oil

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp salt

1 ½ T poppy seeds

1/3 cup cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients except (the oil and poppy seed) in a blender until they are well mixed. Add the oil slowly while continuing to blend when thickened stir in the poppy seed and refrigerate.

A young lady brightened with a smile stood up and instructed us all to wear our name tags for I.D. when they find the dead body. She goes through the instructions fast, with technical terms flying like sparks from a train wheel.

I was lucky that night; we had a live crowd. Not a dead beat in the group. You could tell they were eager for the 44-mile round trip dinner experience to begin.

Suddenly a gorgeous raven-haired woman pushes her chair away from the table. She is gagging. NO. She is choking. Her table mate’s complexion went pasty. Suddenly the raven-haired beauty clammed up and started eating again.

Parts of it rang as wrong as a counterfeit quarter.

I whirled around, and there in the aisle stands a Detective. His teeth were smoky. He shook my hand. I rubbed my fingers back in shape where he’d squeezed them into pretzels.

He wants to know if I was acquainted with a certain gentleman.

I told him, “Don’t push me around. I might crack you one on the kisser.”

He went searching from table to table. More suspicious characters started fighting. Suddenly one of them staggered and went down into a withering heap.

The wheels of calamity were moving, but before I knew it, they had us debarking the train at Columbia Winery.

After a tour of the gift shop, where a quintet sang their hearts out, then a wine tasting we went for a tour of the winery.

Only we found more than wine barrels.

The plot thickened . . .

Cast of Characters

Spirit of Washington Dinner Train A 3 ½ hour round trip adventure including a wooden trestle built-in 1891 102 feet in height. Seven vintage cars that have been completely restored showing scenic views with gourmet cuisine.

Gretchen’s of Course is a partnership of Schwartz Brothers Restaurants. Guests are offered a three-course meal with an appetizer, choice of entrees, and dessert. Northwest wines and beers are also featured. They do all the food preparation, the staff, and the table settings

Columbia Winery Enjoy a 45 minute stop at the winery. Including complimentary Northwest wines and a tour. Columbia is exclusively known for its Winemaker, David Lake. He is the only Master of Winemaking in the United States.

It’s a Mystery Be sure to share some personal information, and you might end up a murder suspect. You get the chance to solve the murder, and booby prizes are awarded for the very good, the very bad, and the funny answers.

Shanna is a Northshore resident who enjoys sharing her stories and recipes with readers. Her column appears regularly in the Citizen

Fathers are always special

But the best Fathers are the crazy ones!
Since I can remember my Dad has had a different hobby every year. Granted some lasted maybe two years, but when he got on the trail of a new hobby it was not just talk it was pure action.

One year it was Boats. I have never been to so many Boat shows in my life; Boat pamphlets, Boat stores, Boat books, but that one blew over when the Boat prices came up too high.

Next was Art. Art shows, Art supplies, Art fairs, and more Art books.

Horses were next with three Arabians, horse shows, equestrian equipment, horse books and sore legs.

But through all his hobbies and he still has more I have learned about all sorts of things and each one has helped me, and one is even helping me now and that was the year of his bread making.

Hmmm…was that a good year! Rolls, Buns, Christmas Bread. All delicious! Though his bread year is over he still has the recipes! I will share with you now.

But remember when you see your Father next give him a big hug because he deserves it!

CARROT TEA BREAD
3 eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 ¾ cups sifted all purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ cups finely shredded carrots
Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Line bottom with wax paper.
Beat eggs, sugar, and vegetable oil in a large mixing bowl until well blended.
Sift flour, baking powder, stir into egg mixture
Stir in shredded carrots
Turn into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake in slow oven (325) for one hour and 20 minutes or until center springs back when lightly pressed.
Cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Peel off wax paper bottom of the pan.
Cool completely.
Sprinkle top with confectioner sugar if you wish.

NUTTY OATMEAL BREAD
1 ½ cups sifted flour.
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup quick cooking oatmeal
1 egg
½ cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup dark molasses
½ cup pitted dates
1 cup nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a greased 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf pan.
Sift flour, salt, baking powder and soda into mixing bowl. Add oatmeal. Put egg, sugar, sour cream and molasses into a blender, cover and process until smooth and well blend. Add dates and nuts chopped. Empty into dry ingredients and stir well.

Fill prepared pan and bake 45 to 55 minutes.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

It’s a pleasant, wet and rainy day, and I am standing in a semicircle of approximately 133 “you cut ’em” Christmas trees.

My husband is running with a sawblade in his left hand, a blue tarp in his right hand, and a translucent look in his eyes. Evidently, he has spotted yet another tree that might meet his specific conditions.

My 7-year-old daughter is lying on the ground at my feet, moaning deliriously that she is “tree sick.” Her tiny limp body is lying quietly as she explains that after rows and rows of trees, she can no long muster the energy to walk another step.

I don’t know about you, but when I go to ‘cut’em” I don’t waste a lot of time. I stride briskly to the most attractive tree standing and shout, “Here!”

Your professional Christmas tree cutter (husband), on the other hand, does not even think about cutting until he has conducted a complete tree study of the site-circling the selected tree warily, as though it were an alien space-ship, checking it out from every possible angle, squatting and squinting, finger in the air checking the wind, feeling the needles, analyzing the distance from the road to the truck, back to the tree…

And so, amid an atmosphere of unbearable tension, comparable to not being able to find your car keys when you are already late to that very important meeting, my daughter and I wait, and wait, and wait.

By now our daughter is trying to make snow angels in the mud and I am unbelievably letting her. I see other families in the tree farm. They’re staring intently at trees way off in the distance, but I think they’re staring at us. We have been here so long.

I think about grabbing my daughter’s hand and pulling her up to her feet and taking her down the hill for our third cup of hot cider and her second candy cane, but too late, she has been entertaining the crowds by holding her breath as she runs up and down the tree rows.

The more time that passed with virtually nothing happening, the more excited I get about that cider. I start down the hill when suddenly I heard a loud, long, whopping yelp that I recognized as my husband.

I turned to see him stand up, wipe tree pitch off his hands, and in a voice that would made a gold digger stop, announced, “This …is the tree. There it stood in all of its glory–all 14 feet of it.

“That’s too big,” I say.

“Not so,” he said. “I will trim off the bottom. You’ll see.”

“Don’t you remember last year?” I asked. “It was too big, you didn’t trim enough.”

“Did so.”

“Did not.”

“Did so.”

“Did not.”

“Did.”

“Not!”

Like anything else, success depends on the proper tools, so in the back of our car is an assortment of many saws, blue tarps, gloves, rope and any necessity to fell Paul Bunyan’s tree.

“Quick, run back to the truck and pick out the yellowed-handled two-blade milliliter saw. Oh, and by the way, grab me a cider,” he says with a big smile.

Rolling my eyes back in my head and shrugging my shoulders, I approach the tree surgeon, punch him in the arm where he pretended to be knocked into the fir tree, and head to the car trying to consider the many, many complex factors involved in the “you cut ’em tree man.

This is, after all, a once-a-year experience. And this tree-prepare to experience a heart tremor- was home cut. How were we going to get it in the truck, let alone through the front door? At least when I finally do get home, I can make a nice hot cup of:

HOT SPICY APPLE CIDER

6 cups apple cider, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon rind, 1 can (2-1/2 cups) unsweetened pineapple juice.

Heat cider and cinnamon stick in a large pan. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered 5 minutes longer.

SIMPLY DELICIOUS EGGNOG

1 egg, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 cup milk, chilled, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Beat egg and sugar together. Beat in milk and vanilla. Serve cold in a tall glass sprinkled lightly with nutmeg. Serve immediately.

Note: This column was published in Sandra Haldeman Martz of Papier-Mache Press, anthology “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays”. Where I was welcomed by two different Barnes & Noble bookstores and Columbia Winery for a book signing and reading.

SOUP! ESPECIALLY ON CHILLY WINTER DAYS

On these chilly winter days nothing is more appealing than hot soup, a cozy fire and home.
Dill weed, garlic and other spices leave the room scented with their own sweet tangy perfume.
The soul of homemade soup that makes the tasty stock is the spices.

Did you know that an aluminum tea ball caddy can be filled with your soup’s spices and immersed when cooking?
After cooking re-move the caddy and your soup will be free of floating bay leaves, and spices will still have all the delicious flavor.

To remove any excess fat from soup just drop in a lettuce leaf let it remain until the grease is absorbed. Remove lettuce leaf before serving.

So simple and effective these little tricks make you feel more confident in your kitchen. Here are a few more:
If you add mashed potatoes to any cream soup it will act as a thickener. Replacing the use of flour. It also adds taste and not as many calories.

To bring out the tang of your tomato soup, add a little sugar and for an instant cream sauce substitute one can cheddar cheese soup or cream of mushroom celery or chicken broth plus ¼ cup milk.

Try my favorite “sit at home and enjoy” soup recipes below. When their aroma begins to tickly your nose you will remember what is so special about these frosty winter days.

OYSTER STEW
1 PINT MILK
½ CUP CREAM
¼ CUP BUTTER
1 PINT OYSTER
1 TEASPOON SALT
DASH OF PEPPER
Heat milk and cream to scalding. Just before serving, melt butter in saucepan add oysters and liquid. Cook gently just until oyster edges curl. Add to scalded milk and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

BEEF BARLEY SOUP
2 POUNDS BEEF SHORT RIBS
5 CUPS WATER
1 LARGE ONION, SLICED
1 16-OUNCE CAN TOMATOES, CUT UP
1 TABLESPOON INSTANT BEEF BOUILLION GRANULES, SALT AND BASIL. SIMMER COVERED ONE AND ½ HOURS.

In Dutch oven slowly brown short ribs on all sides. Drain off excess fat. Add water, undrained tomatoes, onion, bouillon granules, salt, and basil. Simmer covered 1-1/2 hour.

Add carrot, celery, green pepper, barley, and parsley. Simmer covered 45 minutes. Remove meat and bones. Chop meat. Discard bones. Skim excess fat from soup. Return meat to cooker. Season soup to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Getting an early start on Halloween

My husband clapped his hand over his mouth. “I can’t take one more?”

I said nudging him in the ribs. “Incidentally, that was a good tuck and roll exit from the kid’s room.
“Hey, I saw my chance and I took it.” He grinned.

At the same time, we both reached for a Snickers sitting on top of the mound of Halloween candy covering the middle of the living room floor.

It had been about one hour, and three days worth of calories devoured. We were feeling pretty yucky.
But we still arm wrestled for the Snickers. I mean this is …. tradition.

What good is a Holiday if you can’t fall headfirst into it? What other time of the year can you send your child out to roam the streets in the dark and come home and deposit $100 worth of candy at your front door.

You beg and cajole with your children to pleaaasse share that Mars bar only to have their grubby (oh I meant chubby) little hands grab it and yell, “No, it’s mine.”

Too young to express it you know they are thinking, “Hey, you big person you weren’t out there knocking on those doors. It was me!”

Little do they know that Mom and Dad pace the hall waiting for them to finally surrender to sleep.
We sneak down the hall and tiptoe into their room, feeling around in the dark, until we find the Trick or Treat bag. We tiptoe out and run down the hall.

It always amazed me that the kids never discovered the huge dent left in the Trick or Treat bag. I think that it was the sheer pleasure of owning so much of one thing, at one time, that everything looked huge in their small eyes.

Naturally, I cannot buy chocolate and pass it out on Halloween; there would be nothing to pass out.
My daughter has caught onto this and now gives me a list of the candy she likes for us to hand out: Lemonheads, Hot Tamales, Zot (they explode in your mouth) Ring Pops (a lollipop stuck on top of a plastic ring to put on your finger) and Gummi Worms (like chewing a plastic bag).

Of course, the Halloween holiday would not be without drinking Rootbeer floats and listening to the radio while you carve out pumpkins.

You have to take the weekend tour of the pumpkin farm. Here you experience a hayride, spooky house and a play put on by the barnyard animals.

Overcome by the aroma of hot cider, you buy a soup tureen shaped like a pumpkin that you can only use twice a year and have absolutely no cabinet big enough in the kitchen to put it in.

You end up purchasing a u-pick pumpkin for about $8.75 a pound.

Waiting for darkness to arrive on the night of Halloween is not half as suspenseful as having your child pick out their costume. Within minutes of arriving at the fabric store, they are tearing through the pattern books. “That’s IT! That’s IT! They scream.” Great honey, you want to be a pirate. OK Let’s go.

“WAIT. I’ve changed my mind they cry. Four hours and a paper cut later you leave the store with yards of material you have no idea what to do with.

After a few years when you really are into the swing of making costumes and have the technique down. They tell you no way am I wearing a homemade costume.

All I need are my jeans and that $65 mask.

Let’s face it. Halloween is sugar, sugar, sugar! Let’s get the kids started now!
TRICK OR TREAT!

DEAD-END STREET. JUST ASK OPRAH WINFREY.

Families experiencing the joys and horrors visited upon them by their first teenager may be looking for a modern-day miracle.

How about advice from a modern-day Mom who has been enlightened living on a dead-end street.

Just ask Oprah Winfrey. She asked this Northshore Mom to appear on her show.

In her humble and unassuming way, Judy Ford has quietly gone about becoming a best-selling author of several parenting books. On the outside, Ford has a private practice as a full-time family counselor. She also works with the parent/educational staff and development office at the Northshore school district.

But on the inside Ford is a prolific writer whose books:
“Wonderful Ways to Love a Child.”
“Wonderful Ways to Love a Teen.”
“Wonderful Ways to Love a Grandchild.” and “Blessed Expectations.”
Have sold more than 600,000 copies.

That could change soon. Ford has just finished a new book scheduled for release in May. This time she has a co-author, her teen-age daughter, Amanda.

Ford’s publisher Conari press (famous for Random Acts of Kindness) think they have another run-away best seller.
Amanda and her mother both agree that this has been a joyful experience. But how did Amanda become involved?

Judy Ford settles down in her chair and does not even ponder the question. “Troubled relationships can change with this book,” Ford said. Amanda, with her blonde hair and easy smile explained “I was a cheerleader in high school and was very upset about the traditional cheerleading hazing, so I wrote an article to the school newspaper.”

“I could not believe it,” Judy Ford says, hand on forehead. “I was so impressed I sent a copy of Amanda letter to my publisher. ”She leans forward conspiratorially. “My editor was so impressed she suggested we write together as mother and daughter.”

“Of course,” Ford said, “I did not realize how much I would learn about Amanda. How much I did not know.”
Ford was surprised how both remembered the same stories in totally different perspectives. “I was proud of myself for having no concern that Amanda would come through…and that she would hit our deadline.”

Judy and Amanda’s new book is in perspective of a teen-age daughter and mother on the same subject.
For example, one scenario deals with Amanda wanting to get her belly button pierced when she was 14. Amanda explains her side and Ford explains her feelings and advice.

Last May, Amanda came home from college for the summer and every day she and her mother would brainstorm.
They worked on an outline, then the style of the outline and layout. They worked on chapters. Amanda would sleep in and write at night and Mom would write in the mornings.

Ford’s career as an author started from a handout, she gave clients she counseled as a certified social worker. People so enjoyed the handout she was encouraged to make it into a poster. The poster was very successful. She then was encouraged to make it into a book.

Her “Wonderful Way” books inspired people to remember the little moments. The heart-to-heart connections with your children and spouse that add up to a rich family life.

And word of that got OPRAH WINFREY’S attention!

An opportunity to appear on Oprah would trigger most people into a knee-knocking, tongue-twisting bout of fear. And Ford agrees the experience was “totally overwhelming.”

Whisked away from the airport in a Harpo production limousine! Ford was then picked up again in the morning from the hotel. She arrived at the studio to get her hair and make-up done.

As she waited in the green room Ford got her first glimpse of Oprah, who walked by and yelled, “Hi.”
She then met her on stage, where Ford describes Oprah as tall and exactly like she is on air-natural-someone you would like to be friends with.

Ford is also working on a cookbook tentatively title, “Glorious Food and Gossip.” She has an extensive collection of cookbooks and is also a world traveler. Some of her favorite places are Morocco, Thailand and Bali.

“My life is a parable,” Ford weighing her words carefully. “I have spent 25 years counseling people who come to my home/office, and I have learned the art of love and laughter all by living on a dead-end street.”

FOOD HINTS FOR THE BODY and LIVING HINTS FOR THE SOUL

Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of a sugar cone to prevent ice cream drips.

Use a meat baster to “squeeze” your pancake batter onto the hot griddle-perfectly-shaped pancakes every time.

To prevent egg shells from cracking, add a pinch of salt to the water before hard-boiling.

Run your hands under cold water before pressing Rice Krispies treats in the pan. The marshmallows won’t stick to your fingers.

Try using plastic bags (that come from the dry cleaners) under your throw rugs to keep them from slipping. It works like a charm.

I have just found a wonderful lint remover. Just put on a rubber glove and rub the garment. The lint comes off like a magnet.

Use cornstarch to clean fuzzy stuffed animals. Rub the cornstarch on the fuzzy part and let it stand a few minutes and then brush out the cornstarch and the toys are clean once again. Use the cornstarch as it comes right out of the box.

To get the most juice out of fresh lemons, bring them to room temperature and roll them under your palm against the kitchen counter before squeezing. Don’t throw away lemon halves after the juice has been extracted. They may be dipped in salt and rubbed on the bottom of your copper-bottomed pots for a few minutes and they will gleam like new. Then pick up a soap-filled pad and scour the bottom of the pot lightly. This will leave a film on the pot, which will help prevent further accumulation.

Lemons also work on a cutting board. After rubbing on your pots, allow to stand for about one hour. Then wash the board under your hot water faucet with some good detergent and put out in the sun to dry. You will find that your cutting board will be bleached to a whiteness as never before.

This is a really nifty trick using good ole aluminum foil. Just wad up a piece of foil. After making a ball rub briskly over any rusted spots on your chrome furniture or chrome-plated bumpers. Get ready to take a deep breath of wonder as you watch that rust disappear.

Would you like to know a surefire method for keeping cut flowers fresh twice as long? Simply add an aspirin to the water in your vase.

To apply nail polish more easily, simply grasp an empty coffee cup with the hand to be painted. This make it so much easier to steady your hands.

Husband used up all the rags? Got a messy project and don’t want to ruin your clothes? For shoulder-to-knees protection when painting or doing messy chores, cut a T-slit at the bottom of a plastic trash bag, cut holes at the sides under the fold, slip arms and head through the slits.

Here’s the fastest way to remove the core from a head of iceberg lettuce; bang the head, core side down, on to a hard surface such as your kitchen counter and the core should pop right out.

To remove pesky onion and garlic smells from your wood cutting boards, scrub the surface with a paste of baking soda and water.

Try saving the water from boiled peeled potatoes to use in your next bread mix. It adds the perfect flavor to bread loaves.

Neighborhood dogs won’t stay out of your garbage cans? This remedy works every time-pour a dash of household ammonia into garbage bags before closing them. The scent will deter those critters.

When forming meatballs with all of the gooey stuff included, put a few drops of vinegar on your hands every so often and the ingredients will not stick to your hands.

A teaspoon of salad oil prevents rice from sticking together and keeps water from boiling over. And speaking of boiling over, never put a lid on a pot that contains milk, you are guaranteed a mess.

When cutting hard-boiled eggs in two dip your knife in boiling hot water first. This makes the most beautiful slice you have ever seen.

Have you ever wondered how restaurants make those cute garnishes? For a fancy carrot curl cut thin lengthwise strips of carrot with a vegetable peeler. Roll around your finger and fasten with toothpick. Chill in ice water. Remove picks before using.

To determine whether an egg is fresh, immerse it in a pan of cool, salted water. If it sinks, it is fresh- if it raises to the surface throw it away

Spray your Tupperware with nonstick cooking spray before pouring in tomato-based sauces- no more stains.

If you accidentally over-salt a dish while its still cooking, drop in a peeled potato-it absorbs the excess salt for an instant “fix me up”.

If your a homemade cook and like to fix and freeze, remember these helpful hints. Cooked foods should be cooled before being put into freezer.

Keep food packages as thin and flat as practical, foods will freeze and thaw more quickly. And if you run out of freezer containers for your homemade soup, let the soup cool and put into freezer bags. They will freeze flat and you can re-heat in the bag. Remember do that if you use freezer bags, the frozen mixture may not be as deep as a frozen block of food from a container. Therefore, the reheating time may be shorter.

Do you have any crazy recipes that your friends and family are amazed by the ingredients? You know like “Brown paper bag apple pie” or 7-UP cake. I would love to feature your favorites next month.

COOKING FOR THE 4TH OF JULY PICNIC CROWD

Experts agree that the correct way to get into the holiday spirit is to relax and not allow yourself to become overwhelmed.

For example, the other day someone told me that it was the end of June.
“WHAT?!”

Helpful strangers standing yards away, shouted. “Three days until Fourth of July!”

“How could it be?” I queried the clerk as I scratched out “May” on my check for groceries. Then my faithful friend, Margo arrived on the scene and without a second’s hesitation reminded me I am to bring the main course for the annual Fourth of July picnic. “What was I bringing”?

By now I am considering making a break from the grocery line but I had other items on my busy agenda, with number one being remembering how to breathe.

I remembered to rely on the techniques for living a well-balance life that I had just read as I waited in line to check out my groceries.

So here was the procedure:
Visualize what you want to accomplish (I cannot believe I signed up for MAIN COURSE!)

Try to see as an opportunity for growth and learning (The worst part is you have not a clue what to make and you are at the end of your monthly budget.)
Do things that bring joy and fulfillment into your life (And don’t think for a moment that you are going to get out of it, because you aren’t.)

I came out of my unconscious state mumbling, “Hot Dogs.”

“HOT DOGS!” Margo yelled over her shoulder.

I look down the crowded aisle of shoppers and they look at me with the bright polite smiles of people who do not have a clue what had just been said.

“Whoa! Now, Margo lets not be hostile. I mean I’m not going to serve them with Cheez Whiz,” I explained.

“To the best of my recollection, Cheez Whiz on a hot dog is mighty good,” said the customer second to the left in line.

I smile weakly.

Not feeling exceptionally energetic after purchasing $107.82 worth of groceries I knew as a food columnist I had to give that weenie a gourmet twist.

“Did I say Hot Dogs? No, no, no I meant Frankfurters,” I said. I felt a quiet giddiness and relief until I realized–condiments.

I pondered on this on the drive home. As I breathe deeply (so as not to become overwhelmed) I thought there has to be more than one way to butter a hot dog bun. Never doubt it, it only takes a rise in blood pressure to stagger the imagination to make a pretty dull weenie into…FOURTH OF JULY FRANKFURTERS

Score frankfurters about 1/4 inch deep. Brush with a sweet-sour BBQ, or zesty tomato sauce. Grill 6 inches from heat, turning and brushing once or twice with more sauce. Grill for 10 minutes or until hot dogs are puffed and richly glazed. Now take your pick of homemade condiments:

-Top grilled hot dogs with mashed avocado, sliced ripe olives and crushed corn chips.
-Line toasted hot dog buns with sautéed red and green peppers seasoned with chili sauce.
-Serve with grilled (canned or fresh) pineapple spears, chopped macadamia nuts and diced green peppers.
-Insert tiny pieces of white American Cheese into scored hot dogs before grilling; spread mustard on hot dogs buns and arrange slices of red and green pickled cherry peppers around hot dog.
-Spread toasted hot dog buns with canned deviled ham, place grilled hot dogs over and top with chopped Bermuda onion or Walla Walla sweets.
-Wrap lean bacon around hot dogs before grilling and top with hot dog relish in toasted buns.
-Fill toasted hot dog buns with rice salad and place grilled hot dog over top with dairy sour cream seasoned with mustard.
-Top grilled hot dogs in toasted buns with orange sections and sweet onion slices.

Try a few twists to celebrating birthdays

“Come to my party next Saturday at seven.
The fun will start early so don’t dare to be late.
Although it’s my Birthday the surprise is for you.
To learn what I’ve planned come see what we do.”

Kristen’s Birthday invitation was a bit unusual but then so was her Birthday party idea. She wanted to do something different for her first double-digit Birthday (10). She had plans to invite her friends who had already been to dozens of parties and were on the verge of out growing the usual Birthday games.

A trip to McDonald’s or the bowling alley crossed her mind but that really wasn’t it—there had to be something new; something no one else had done before. There was – and she had it! A great idea. Kristen would have the first, “Decorate A Cake On My Birthday Party.” All the girls had seen and eaten decorated Birthday cakes but how many had decorated Birthday cakes of their own? The rest was easy!

With the help of her Mom, Kristen made a list of everything she’d need: A cake for each girl. Frosting. Several tubes of frosting gel. Candies (such as gummy bears, peppermints, pretzels, licorice, sweet and sour tarts, chocolate, animal cookies, coconut colored with food coloring, anything and everything! They would set up each treat in bowls set out on a table beforehand and it would be up to each girl to see what she would create.

And create they did!
Amidst munching, giggling and chattering. Kristen made her cake into the shape of a bunny head with licorice for whiskers. Jenny frosted her one-layer cake and placed animal cookies in pretzel cages for a Circus cake.
Everyone had a wonderful time.

RECIPES
The Birthday cakes that Kristen baked with her Mom early in the day were as much fun as decorating.

Here ‘tis the recipes for homemade Birthday cakes and frostings.

Coca-Cola Cake
In a large bowl, combine: 2 Cups flour, 2 cups sugar,
1 teaspoon baking soda.
In a large saucepan, combine: 2 sticks (1 cup) butter.
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, 1 cup Coca-Cola.
Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over flour mixture.
Add: ½ cup buttermilk, two beaten eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, ½ cup mini marshmallows
Mix by hand until mixture is the consistency of thin batter. Pour into greased and floured rectangular cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-55 minutes.

TOO Easy-Z Lemon Cake
Mix according to package direction one box of lemon cake mix. Add to the batter, one package of Jell-O instant lemon pudding (4-serving size)
Bake cake as directed on package. Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes.
Now for the FUN! Using a chop stick or skewer, poke holes in the cake. Now we are going to make an icing that will be poured into the holes.
This adds a great flavor plus a fun look when sliced.
ICING: Whisk together 2 cups confectioner’s sugar and 1 cup lemon juice.

Rich Chocolate Frosting
In large bowl with mixer at low speed, beat 5 cups confectioners sugar, 1 1/2/ cups unsweetened cocoa, one cup softened butter (2 sticks) ¾ cup milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon salt until blended. Increase speed to high. Beat until frosting is light and fluffy and an easy spreading consistency.

Fluffy White Frosting
½ cup light corn syrup
1 egg white
¼ teaspoon cream of tarter
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a small saucepan, bring the syrup to a boil over medium heat. In a small mixing bowl, beat egg white and cream of tarter until soft peaks form. Beat in vanilla
Continue beating for about three minutes or until stiff and shiny.
Makes about 2 cups.