Thursday, July 30, 2009

Steve Lopez, the homeless & personal experience

7/22/09 Chatterbox Chose to make a difference Betty Kaiser Once you’ve witnessed a psychotic breakdown on a city street; observed individuals sleeping and urinating in alleys; or experienced guards at supermarket doors, the problems of a growing homeless population become reality. Steve Lopez, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, is well acquainted with the homeless population. His book, “The Soloist: A Lost Dream, An Unlikely Friendship and the Redemptive Power of Music,” not only made best seller lists coast to coast but became a powerful movie, “The Soloist.” His experience with one man led him to become an advocate for the homeless and the chronically mentally ill. Lopez was the reason I was attending a newspaper conference last month in Calif. Due to its proximity to downtown, many of us conferees got lots of interaction with the homeless. We also gained new skills in rejection as we practiced saying, “No” and “Sorry,” to the multitude of homeless winos, drug addicts and schizophrenics near the refined hotel where we were staying. Now, I am easily moved to tears by the plight of those who suffer. At the core of my being, I am a ‘helper.’ If you need a shoulder to cry on or a helping hand, I’m your gal. If you are at wit’s end and don’t know where to turn for advice on childcare, your next meal or clothes for a job interview … I’m only too happy to sit down and help you figure out the answers to the dilemma. I am also human and there is a limit to my compassion. Panhandlers really upset me. A grubby derelict who approaches me with his hand out saying — “Excuse me, ma’am, got any change?” —usually gets a cold shoulder and a brusque answer as I walk on by. Watching street corner prostitution agreements being made or drug deals go down disgusts me. As part of America’s middle class, I don’t like to walk on by. I’d like to be part of the solution but where does one begin. One must actually do something to make a difference. But what? Steve Lopez is my hero. He is one of those unlikely people who made a huge difference in the life on another. But if you’ve read his book or seen the movie, you know that the road wasn’t easy and the end of the story is on-going. Life is better for one homeless man but not perfect. Dave Lieber of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram introduced the tall, gangly Lopez as our speaker at the Crowne Plaza Ventura. “He is not the cold, uncaring, ‘just looking for a story’ individual as portrayed by Robert Downing, Jr.,” said Lieber. “He is the sweetest, kindest, nicest man I know.” Lopez never has to look far for a story. Skid Row, Los Angeles, is the homeless capital of the nation and just a few steps from the L.A. Times. It was there in 2005 that Lopez met Nathaniel Ayers — a grubby, semi-coherent individual whose entire possessions were stuffed in a shopping cart. Their relationship would eventually transform both of their lives and inspire the world. Lopez struck up a conversation with Mr. Ayers who was playing a two-stringed violin because he couldn’t afford the other two strings. He came down to Pershing Square near the Beethoven statue and played daily. Most people ignored him but Lopez stopped, looked him in the eye and said, “Why do you play here?” The answer was simple: “for inspiration.” It was gratifying to hear Ayer’s story as personally told by Lopez. He looked like the typical bum but his genius shined through his playing. A multi-talented musician in his 50s, he had left Julliard at age 21 when he suffered a mental breakdown. He was on and off medication, counseling and even shock therapy. The streets were his home but music remained his passion. Slowly Lopez became his advocate and learned that life with Mr. Ayers would never be simple. There are no easy fixes or magic pills for schizophrenia. A clean apartment, healthcare and even a renewed acquaintance with super star cellist Yo-Yo Ma could not totally reverse the damage that the years had wrought. “He’s Got the World on Two Strings,” was the first of 30 columns on Ayers that eventually became a book. Donations of instruments and money poured in. People cared! Step by painful step trust was built. Today the professional journalist and his skid row friend are still dialoging. Lopez keeps his friend supplied in strings and concert tickets. Ayers occasionally makes appearances at mental health events like the annual NAMI convention. The duo is on a journey together. Recently, I was sitting in a Starbucks in Eugene when a homeless man and his two dogs stopped outside. He was riding a bike and pulling a bike trailer; a guitar tenderly cradled by his side. He was obviously homeless but something in his eyes told me that he wasn’t your usual panhandler. He was a young man; perhaps in his early 30s. I could tell that he was weary as he pulled a pan out of his trailer and walked into the restroom to get water for his dogs. Thinking he could probably use a cup of coffee, I went outside to meet him. What happened next still stuns me. As we talked, his eyes filled with tears and he shared that his itinerant lifestyle wasn’t what he had planned but he didn’t know how to go back. I tried to encourage him as I cried with him. Sometimes in life, we all take a wrong turn and need someone to show us the way back. It’s important to remember that all of us are God’s children. We must keep the dialog going and be there for those who’ve lost their way. We can make a difference, however small it may be.
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.
Contact her via e-mail —

Blueberries are super-berries

7/15/09 Cook’s Corner
Blueberries are super-berries!
Betty Kaiser

The last few years, the humble blueberry has assumed an exciting new reputation in the world of nutrition. It is no longer just a simple berry making its yearly appearance clothed in a royal blue cloak. Today it sits at the ‘berry’ top of the food chain as a super-berry!

These little guys add a powerful punch to our daily diet and can help keep us healthy. Research increasingly shows that thanks to anti-oxidant properties, blueberries are more than a sweet snack. They can also be helpful in fighting major diseases. Simply put, the berries supply the body with chemicals that react against harmful oxidants that can damage a wide variety of bodily functions.

A Tufts neuroscientist went so far as to call blueberries “the brain berry.” In a Newsweek article James Joseph said, “When it comes to brain protection, there’s nothing quite like blueberries.” Others claim that blueberries can improve vision, enhance memory, clear arteries, strengthen blood vessels and promote weight control.

Sounds good, right? Well, if it’s true, I say, bring them on! A serving of just one-half cup of blueberries is only 40-fat free calories and a great source of fiber and vitamin C. Raw, we can eat them guilt free. We add a dollop of guilt when they’re mixed with a little sugar and turned into pies but sometimes that’s the only way you can get kids and men to eat ‘healthy’ foods!

Blueberries are pretty sweet eaten plain and unadorned right out of hand. No sugar needed. I also enjoy them on my morning bowl of breakfast cereal and sometimes even on a green salad. Most people like them in muffins. Plain blueberry pie is too sweet and boring for me but I do like pies that combine blueberries with other fruits.

So today we’re going to mix up our blueberries into three distinctly different pies that probably have too much sugar and too much fat to be really healthy. My advice? Cut down the sugar where you can, eat small servings and hope that their antioxidant properties override everything else. Stay healthy. Eat blueberries. Enjoy!

Glazed Fresh Blueberry/Strawberry Pie

4-5 cups fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
2-3 cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained
1-1/2 cups sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
Dash salt
2 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

(2) 9-inch pie shells, baked

Prepare glaze:
Crush 2 cups strawberries and add enough cold water to make 2 cups pulp mixture. Pour into small heavy saucepan and place over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 min.; strain and add cold water to make 2 cups. Set aside.

In heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually whisk in strawberry juice mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 1 min. or until mixture is thick, stirring constantly. Cool to room temperature before using. Add a few drops red food coloring if desired.

Assemble pie:
Brush bottom of cooled pie crust with a little of the strawberry glaze. Divide the glaze in half and pour into two large bowls. Put half of the strawberries and blueberries into each of the bowls. Gently mix the glaze with the fruit and pour into pie shells. Refrigerate pies 3-4 hours or until chilled and glaze is set. Note: If the strawberries are huge, slice in half lengthwise.

Shortly before serving, whip the cream, gradually adding sugar and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Sour Cream Blueberry Pie

1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Pie filling:
In a mixing bowl, beat together sour cream, 2 tablespoons flour, sugar, vanilla, salt, and egg until smooth (about 4 to 5 minutes). Gently fold in blueberries. Pour into the piecrust and bake at 400° for 25 minutes.

Pecan Topping:
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons soft butter or margarine
3 tablespoons chopped pecans

Combine the 3 tablespoons of flour, margarine, and pecans, mixing well. Sprinkle pecan mixture over the top of the pie; return to oven and bake 10 minutes longer. Let cool. Chill before serving.
Serves 8.

Blueberry Peach Pie with Crumb Topping

1 cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups sliced peaches
1 1/2 cups blueberries, washed & cleaned
2 tablespoons lemon juice
9" unbaked pie shell

1/3 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs or flour
1/3 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Mix pie ingredients together and put into a 9 inch unbaked pastry shell. Mix topping ingredients and crumble over pie. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until juice bubbles through. Let cool. Serve warm with ice cream. Serves 6-8.

Note: Place pie in oven on a piece of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet to catch any drips. Makes clean up easier.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal!
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare. 

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dealing with deer

7/8/09 Chatterbox Dealing with deer Betty Kaiser Dear “deer,” Our last formal communication via this newspaper column was in Oct. 2001. Obviously too much time has passed because you did it again! This time you wiped out my prized rose garden early in the season during bloom prime time. Your behavior is unacceptable if you wish to continue to co-exist with us at Wilson Creek Meadows. Early in April you began scouting out the crime scene as you elegantly wandered down the driveway at sunset. Tall and elegant, we watched in awe as you strutted your stuff. We named you Dancer and Prancer. Every night the dogs would sit on the deck waiting to chase you onto the rear of the property. But you kept coming back, tantalizing them and mesmerizing us. One night you couldn’t keep it together any longer and munched down dozens of tulips in planters near the house while you were scouting the area for dessert. In late May you became more brazen. At first you just sampled a few early rose petals near Chuck’s workshop. Then you discovered the new tender perennials that we planted. Some you ate right down to the nub. Others, like the Columbines, were not to your liking so you just pulled them up and spit them out. All the while, you were just waiting to chow down on dozens of tea roses along the front of the house. I’ll bet that you were imaging the fragrance and texture of roses as you grazed on grass. Once upon a time, the sight of your grazing cousins would evoke in us a sense of peace and wonder. As city dwellers, deer alerts were a surefire way to keep our kids occupied while driving through wilderness areas in state or national parks. At the time I thought there could be no more tranquil scene that a doe feeding in a meadow with her fawns. One of my favorite sayings was, “Aren’t they sweet?” Well, after 20 years of growing roses in deer country, I’ve discovered that you are not sweet. In fact, you are — animals! Cunning and conniving, your peaceful appearance is just a fa├žade to lull home gardeners into a false sense of security. Well, it’s not going to work. Remember the vegetable garden? Your cousins kept breaking down our aged field fence barrier. After one of your buddies got hit by a car, ran onto the property (straight for the garden!) and died, Chuck built the Taj Mahal of garden fences. It is 8 feet 4 inches high with pressure treated 4 X 4 posts, raised beds and locking gates. Now, birds are the only predators that snack on the seeds, strawberries and tomatoes. One fine summer evening, a few years ago, several of you got together and invaded my English rose garden. Now the Cecile Bruners, Abraham Darbys and Gertrude Jekyll’s are snugly protected from your advances by a decorative fence with solar lights so you can see what you’re missing. Until this year, we have been able to reasonably protect the roses across the front of the house with a double strand of nearly invisible hot wire. By and large, your predecessors have respected this barrier. Once in awhile — in the dead of summer — when the fragrance becomes overwhelming, someone walks down the sidewalk and gingerly samples a few roses. Then they move on. You, however, are gluttons. Earlier this month, I was horrified when I stepped out onto the front porch. Most of the 75 rose bushes were broken; blossoms were either neatly snapped off the stems or the entire stalk was stripped of leaves and thorns like a zipper. In the heat, the bushes were already starting to wilt from the enzymes in your mouth. What were you thinking? Where were your manners?! Thanks to you, Wilson Creek Meadows now looks like a war zone. Property protection is the name of the game. Charm has gone out the window. We look more like a fortress than a house. New motion lights have been added. Stronger battery chargers have been purchased; wires are now strung across the walkways and an increasing array of barriers has been added. It ain’t pretty. Now, Dancer and Prancer, we are reasonable landlords. We are willing to share five of our six-acre meadow with you. The catch being that we maintain complete control over the one-acre that includes all of my flower beds. This rule is not subject to argument or arbitration. The flowers are mine! Got it? If, my ‘deer’ friends, you don’t agree, it’s time for you to move on. You need to dance and prance off to the nearby parks where the campers will appreciate you. Blackberry season is right around the corner so you won’t go hungry. And don’t forget to visit our neighbors. Some of them are very generous and probably still serving USDA approved deer food. Let’s face it; you’ve worn out your welcome on our acre. Have you forgotten that that hunting season is coming? You’re going to need a place to hide. Your loaned acreage has a stand of trees that will serve you well if you just cooperate with us. Now, you know that I am persistent. But so far, nothing has worked to deter your destructive rounds. Not blood meal, deodorant soap, hair clippings, bright lights, clanging bells or barking dogs. Maybe it’s time to bring in the big guns (metaphorically speaking!). There’s new motion sensor water deterrent on the market. A Bull Mastiff dog or guard llama might work. Barbed wire is another option. Get the picture? My creative mind is now adrenaline driven. So, let’s call a truce. I’ll smell the roses while you munch the meadow. Deal? Or no deal? It’s your choice. Your rosy landlord, Betty Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail —

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Kaiser's 4th of July cookout menu

7/1/09 Cook’s Corner
All-American cookout menu
Betty Kaiser

It’s really hard to improve upon the All-American hamburger and hot dog as menu choices for a fourth of July cookout. They are easy to prepare, quick cooking and pleasing to almost everyone’s palate. And they are definitely portable if you’re toting them to the beach or a nearby park.

Everyone has their own idea of what constitutes the perfect hamburger. For me, it’s all about the meat: texture and taste. Here are my three simple guidelines :

Rule Number 1: Do not use packaged patties. Commercially compressing the meat results in a sawdust tasting burger. Lightly shaping the patty makes for a tender burger.

Rule Number 2: Use a high quality beef but not the sirloin or 7% fat grade. Your burger will fall apart if the proper amount of fat is not there to bind the meat. Too much fat will result in excessive shrinkage. Then you’ll end up saying “Where’s the beef?” as you play hide and go seek with the meat patty inside a gigantic bun.

Rule Number 3: Do not add anything to the meat. If you’re using a good grade of meat it doesn’t need to be mixed up with onions, sauces, or any kind of filler. The condiments will provide plenty of zip for your burger.

And speaking of condiments, my husband’s favorite addition is grilled onions. Now I’m not a big fan of either grilled onions or toting a skillet to the park to cook them in. So, I usually grill the onions in advance, wrap them in foil and reheat them at the grilling site. It saves a heap of time and trouble.

Hamburger buns are available in all sizes and flavors. Next time you’re in the market, check out the Kaiser rolls. They’re lighter than traditional rolls, come in a variety of flavors and are large enough to hold everything that you pile on. They can easily be heated right in the plastic bag from the market. Just leave them out on the table and the sun will do the job for you. The traditional buttered and grilled bun is also great.

Everyone loves potato salad and everyone likes their own potato salad best. Especially when it comes to the dressing. Some prefer mayonnaise; others swear by Miracle Whip; still others conjure up a mixture of sour cream and mayo; and a few put together a simple vinaigrette dressing. The best one is the one that your family will eat!

My potato salad recipe is an often requested three-generation favorite. My measurements are ‘flexible’ and no two batches are alike. The final product depends upon the potatoes, my mood that day and the number of people I’m serving. I taught my husband and many cooks in the Kaiser’s Country Diner kitchen to make this by the gallon. This recipe recreation attempt is especially for my friend Nancy O. (who also makes a ‘mean’ potato salad). Enjoy!

Betty’s Potato Salad
(Serves 8)

10 medium sized russet, red or Yukon gold potatoes (see note)
2 or 3 carrots, shredded
1 small red onion, finely minced
8 celery stems, sliced in moons
8 sweet pickles, diced
Garlic salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Italian dressing
Mayonnaise (about 1-1/2 cups)
5 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Lawry’s seasoned salt

Scrub potatoes, put in large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer about 1 hour or until done and skin starts to crack. Drain, cover with cold running water until they begin to cool down. Drain again.

Peel potatoes while warm; if using red potatoes, leave on some skin. Dice and place in large mixing bowl. Add onion, celery and sweet pickles, garlic salt and pepper. Pour Italian dressing over all and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, add a spoonful of sweet pickle juice to mayonnaise. Stir potatoes and mix well with mayonnaise. If you like your salad dry, don’t add all of the mayo at once. If you like it wetter, add more mayo. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Put in serving bowl, cover with eggs and garnish with season salt.

Note: This recipe serves 8 average appetites. Adjust amounts according to number of people being served. Use one potato per person plus two extras ‘for the pot.’ I never like to run out of food at a party.

Chuck’s Burgers with grilled onions
(Serves 6-7)

2 pounds ground beef (12% fat)
1/4-cup Canola oil (more or less)
3 sweet onions, thinly sliced and separated into rings
2 tablespoons Italian dressing or Worcestershire sauce
6 Kaiser rolls, partially sliced

Garnishes (as desired):
Cheddar cheese slices
Dill pickles
Barbecue sauce, mustard, catsup
1000 island dressing
Shredded lettuce
Raw red onions, sliced

Shape the ground beef into patties. Allow for shrinkage: about 5 ounces for adults; smaller ones of kids. Grill to desired doneness.

Prepare the grilled onions by heating oil in a large skillet; add onions. Cook and stir until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Return to skillet and lightly stir in Italian dressing or Worcestershire sauce. If transporting to a picnic site, allow to cool and wrap in heavy-duty foil. Reheat before serving.

Grilled Dogs

8 bun size hot dogs or Italian sausages
8 hot dog buns or Hoagie rolls

Garnishes (as desired)
Grilled onions (see above recipe)
Diced red onions
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Dill pickles
Sweet pickle relish
Catsup and mustard

Grill dogs; add buns just before serving. Let everyone garnish his or her own dog and eat!

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

Oregon strawberry season

6/24/09 Cook’s Corner
Strawberry season is short but delicious
Betty Kaiser

Along about this time of year, I start craving fresh fruit. Real fruit. Fruit that is grown and picked locally. I anxiously look forward to the day when the first strawberries arrive at Farmer’s Markets and local fruit stands. We grow them in our garden but it takes them a little longer to get going at our elevation. Right now they’re teeny and sour.

In case you’re new to the area, here’s the fruit arrival pattern in the Willamette Valley: Weather permitting, we start off with strawberries in late May or early June and move into peaches and cherries in July. Nectarines, raspberries and blueberries arrive in August. Fall, of course brings apples, pears, walnuts and filberts before winter puts an end to our bounty.

Oregon strawberries come and go quickly. They are best! Deep red and intensely sweet, they don’t last long. Just about the time I decide to ‘put up’ a flat or two, they’re gone! So watch the ads in the newspapers carefully. They’re here today and gone tomorrow.

Lots of folks are canning for the first time this year. May I suggest that you start with the easiest jam on earth — strawberry freezer jam. You will find dozens of ways to use it all year long. It’s great on breakfast toast, pancakes, waffles, stirred into yogurt and poured over ice cream. Just buy a package of powdered pectin, follow the directions and put up your own homemade jam. Yummy stuff.

Freezing whole strawberries is an art that I’ve never quite mastered. The easiest way is to wash and pat them dry. Remove stems and leaves or soft spots. Place them on a baking sheet in the refrigerator for about an hour. Then transfer the sheet to the freezer until berries are frozen. Remove and seal in an airtight container. Warning: the berries may not retain their shape and texture; just their flavor!

Now is also the time to get your fill of strawberry smoothies. They taste ridiculously rich but can actually be very healthy, depending upon the amount of sugar used. Each serving includes a serving of fruit and dairy for the day. Frozen strawberries actually make the best smoothies. The icy texture seems to intensify the berry flavor. Frozen yogurt or plain old ice cubes can add the same pizzazz to a fresh berry smoothie.

Strawberries are also delicious in a green dinner salad that is elegant enough for guests. I stumbled across this combination years ago when I was desperate for something different to take to a potluck. I must say that it’s very popular and every single bite disappears. I have even been known to cheat and use “Newman’s Own Lighten Up Cranberry Walnut dressing.” It’s really tasty stuff. Later this summer I’ll share Newman’s sensational chicken salad recipe.

Finally, we’re closing off our recipe session with an unusual strawberry bread pudding. It’s “A Laura Ashley Tea” recipe so you know it’s good — if you like bread pudding. If not, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Just be sure and serve it warm with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Homemade, of course. Enjoy!

Strawberry-Yogurt Smoothie

2 cups frozen unsweetened strawberries
1/2 cup cranberry raspberry juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

Place the strawberries in the blender. Add the juices and top with the yogurt. Puree until smooth. Pour into two glasses and garnish each with a fresh strawberry. Serve immediately.

Strawberry Dinner Salad

1 bunch romaine lettuce
1/2-cup green onions, sliced
1-2 cups strawberries, sliced
1 can water chestnuts, sliced
1 cup candied almonds of pecans (recipe follows)

Prepare candied almonds or pecans:
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup almonds or pecans

Place sugar in nonstick skillet and melt over medium heat, stirring often. Remove from heat and add nuts. Stir until coated. Remove and separate on wax paper. Leave until cool.

Prepare dressing:
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (or other fruit flavored vinegars)
1/4 cup sugar (more or less)
Dash of dill weed

Mix all ingredients together. Taste to adjust flavors and chill.
Note: Nut flavored vinegars are also excellent. Specialty stores will carry them in a variety of flavors.

To serve salad:
Wash and chill lettuce several hours before serving. To serve, slice lettuce crosswise into bite size pieces. Sprinkle with green onions, water chestnuts and nuts. Shake dressing well and add to salad just before serving. Reserve a few strawberries for garnish. Serves 6-8.

Strawberry Pudding
“A Laura Ashley Tea”

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar, divided
4 eggs
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pints strawberries, cleaned and hulled
1 pound bread scraps (i.e. 2-3 days old bread)
Whipped Cream

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Cream together butter and half the sugar. In separate bowl, beat eggs with remaining 1/2 cup sugar and add butter mixture. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Add to mixture, and then stir in milk and vanilla. Fold in strawberries and bread scraps. Pour into a greased 9x5-inch loaf pan (or a round white casserole). Bake for 30 min.

Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar over top of each serving. Serves 6.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal!
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

Interviewing dad = forever memories

6/17/09 Chatterbox Betty Kaiser Father’s Day was created for that guy most of us call ‘Dad.’ It’s a time for kids (and mom!) to show appreciation for the fellow who regularly goes off to work every morning and comes home dog-tired every night. The guy who still musters up the energy to throw a ball in the backyard, give the baby a bath or help with the dishes. Dads are often men of few words. They come into this fatherhood business as rank amateurs. The care and feeding of children was not on their high school class curriculum. Fatherhood? They’re mostly clueless going into the whole thing. Actually, most parents are scared spitless when that first baby arrives. But moms usually get lots of advice from their girl friends. They read books, take classes, and listen to other mothers’ advice to ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that.’ They bond over breast-feeding and potty training tips. Phone numbers are exchanged as perfect strangers say, “Call me if you need me.” Dads … not so much! Guys slap one another on the back, smoke a cigar and silently wonder how in the world they’re going to take care of this tiny bundle that just arrived. Confidence in parenting is not their strong suit. It comes slowly and is different from mom’s natural maternal instincts. Males are cut from another cloth and their learning curve is often pretty steep about this fatherhood business. Sometimes dads seem pretty humorless. They kick the toys off the driveway and grumble as they walk in the door about how messy the kids are. He’s often yelling at the dog chewing on his favorite slippers when his mother-in-law calls. Not to worry. Chaos is normal and so is dad. They both take some getting used to. Most dads would rather demonstrate their love than verbalize it. Unbeknownst to them, they show their kids how to live in the ups and downs of life. As they work out the kinks in their own lives, their actions and attitudes are teaching kids lessons of which neither are aware. Showing up for a ballet recital is an act of love. Praising a lopsided, unidentifiable lump of clay as “a work of art” is a lesson in diplomacy. Hugging the kid that just ruined a treasured collection of 1970s baseball cards demonstrates forgiveness. And calmly listening to the neighborhood kids apologize for breaking a car window during their baseball game models respect. Kids learn a lot from dads who don’t say much. Moms talk about anything and everything — all the time. Kids tune them out. Dads just do stuff. They don’t even know their kids are watching them. Looking up to them. Hoping to someday be just like them. My dad was a good dad and I loved him deeply. He has been gone for many years and I miss him. Looking back, I think that all of us kids took him for granted. We especially took it for granted that we would always have him with us. And now I have so many questions that I wished I had asked him. Many years ago my sons interviewed their two grandfathers for a class project in the 8th grade. They recorded their answers on a small cassette player. The grandfathers were pleased to be asked about their ancestors, childhoods, hopes and dreams. Jeff and John were enlightened and amazed at some of answers to their questions. How about you? Do you really know your dad or granddad? Now is the time to ask him the questions in your heart. Tomorrow may be too late. Here are a few basic questions to jumpstart a conversation. Pretend like you’re a reporter. Do whatever it takes to get a dialog going. You won’t be sorry.
Father’s Day Questionnaire
What is your birth date? (You’re how old?!) What state were you born in? (Where’s that?) What did your dad and mom do for a living? Were you rich or poor or ‘just right’? Name the places you have lived. When you were in elementary school … a. What town was it in? b. Did you like school? c. Why or why not? d. What was your favorite subject? e. At recess what games did you play? f. Did you have homework? g. Who was your first girlfriend? h. Who was your best friend? At home … a. Did you have to do chores? b. What were they? c. What games did you play? d. Did your family go to church or a place of worship? e. Where did you go on vacations? Did you graduate from high school? Did you go to college or a trade school? Where did you meet my mom? Did you kiss her on your first date? What was your first job? How many jobs have you had? What was your favorite job? What is your favorite fun thing to do? If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go? What was your first car? (What’s that?) If you could buy any car in the world, what would it be? What was the best time of your life? If you could live your life over again would you change anything? Do you have any advice for me? (That question will blow his mind!) Dads are a wonderful resource. Help him feel loved and appreciated. Show some interest in him as an individual. Discuss important subjects. Go for a walk. Laugh together. Take time to listen to his stories about old times. Give him a hug. You’ll be glad that you did.
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her via e-mail —

Pigging out on pork

6/10/09 Cook’s Corner
Pigging out on pork
Betty Kaiser

Father’s Day is just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about dad’s favorite dinner. Pork loin barbecued on the grill is a favorite entree by the dad at our house. He likes the lean, tender, seasoned meat, and of course, the ease of preparation

For several months I have been a little leery of suggesting pork thanks to the Swine Flu scare. However, after much research, I am bravely going to stick my neck out, broach the subject and offer some recipes in today’s column.

The Swine Flu epidemic was frightening health wise as well as a public relations nightmare for the pork industry. As news of deaths from the virus kept escalating, the natural knee-jerk reaction around the world was to stop eating anything that smacked of pork. We never stopped eating it at our house but at times, I was a little uneasy.

It seemed the common sense thing to do. We didn’t know what the risks were. People began eating turkey bacon; Egypt slaughtered 300,000 pigs to destroy the virus. Countries like Russia and China banned U.S. and Canadian porcine imports; sales were reportedly slow everywhere and the prices of stock market hog futures were pushed down.

Finally, the Centers for Disease Control issued a statement: “Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160° F. kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.”

It was certainly a relief to have official word on such a controversial subject. However, it should be noted here that some professional cooks would disagree and only cook the meat to 145° F. To them, the meat is ‘shoe leather’ at 165° F. I’m not a professional so I err on the side of safety.

The problem I have with cooking pork is hitting that sweet spot between rare and dry. Years ago we were told to practically cook pork “until it was dead” or at least dead enough to kill the trichinosis parasite. Today that is seldom a problem as most of our meat is domestic and not wild. The easiest way to tell whether your meat is done enough is with a meat thermometer inserted long ways with the tip ending in the thickest part.

Sauces and dry rubs are traditional ways to spice up or sweeten any cut of pork. Here’s a hint if you like a sweet sauce: You know those small jars of gift jams and jellies that you get at the holidays? Use them as your base. Chutneys, pepper jellies, any of them will work.

Dry rubs are a process of hit and miss for me. It’s sometimes hard to judge how much chili powder, garlic, brown sugar and whatever else I’m throwing in to use. I often purchase pre-packaged rubs that come from gourmet cooking shops when I’m on vacation. They make unusual, tasty souvenirs and are easy to pack.

Our resident chef grills the meat in a covered grill on low to medium heat. Chuck rolls the meat with tongs a quarter turn every five minutes or so until done. Small pieces of tenderloin only take about 20 min. If you don’t have a thermometer use the touch test. When done, the meat will become firm to the touch. Remove from grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 min. It will continue cooking as it stands. Or, carve immediately if it seems overdone.

Here are two recipe ideas for your Father’s Day dinner. They are easy recipes to “make your own” by adding or exchanging ingredients. The instructions offer the choice of grilling outside or in the oven. Fresh asparagus, homemade applesauce and wild rice make great side dishes. Enjoy!

Lemon-Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
(OR 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
(OR 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 teaspoon lemon peel, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 pork tenderloins (1 pound each)

Combine the first 9 ingredients in small bowl; rub over tenderloins. Oven method: Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, at 400° F., 45-50 min. or until a meat thermometer reads 160°. Cover with foil; let stand 10 min. before slicing. Yield 8 servings.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Apricot Glaze

2-3 pounds pork tenderloin
2 teaspoons garlic pepper (or equal parts garlic salt and pepper)
1/4 cup teriyaki or soy sauce
1/4 cup chili flavored olive oil
1/2 cup apricot jam

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Rub garlic pepper evenly onto both sides of the pork tenderloin. Mix together the teriyaki sauce and the chili-flavored oil and brush tenderloin with it. Place the tenderloin directly onto a hot grill and sear it by browning the meat quickly, sealing the tenderloin's juices inside.

After the meat has been seared, transfer it to a shallow baking dish. Brush again with the teriyaki-oil mixture. Liberally spread apricot jam over the pork and bake at 350 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes or until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Yield: 6-10 servings

Note: As a substitute for the chili oil, use an equal amount olive or canola oil adding a few red pepper flakes.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal!
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

Barnyard wisdom for graduate grandson

6/3/09 Chatterbox Betty Kaiser Okay, I’m going to brag a little bit today, so bear with me. This column is dedicated to my eldest grandson, Paul Daniel Linman, 18, who will graduate from Buena High School next week in Ventura, Calif. It’s hard to believe that our little boy with big brown eyes and a smile to melt your heart is all grown up and on his way to college. Paul is the grandson our daughter Kathy told us we would never have. She and her husband were “too busy.” Then, miracle of miracles, she and Tim produced Paul. We immediately began to practice being grandparents and spoil him rotten. We admired, cooed, cherished and lavished affection on this precious bundle of joy. We still do. Now there are five adorable grandsons to love but Paul is the cousins’ top dog. He is the one they all look up to. He directs traffic and keeps the peace when they’re together; and sweetly holds little five-year old Joshua’s hand when they cross the street. He is the one who introduced grandson mania into our hearts. Looking back, we can see that his Swedish and German gene pool was active at a very early age. In other words, although he appeared quiet and shy he was also very strong-willed. (Dare I say stubborn?) Even as a toddler he was not easily distracted. He always focused on the job at hand whether it was learning to feed himself, practice saying his ABCs or ride a bicycle. He was never shy about expressing himself. When he played with little trucks and cars the noises that he made were loud and racetrack real. When his brother came along, he lovingly doted upon and protected him until he intruded upon Paul’s space. Then it was “Matthew, NO! Stop it NOW!” From kindergarten on, he was the classic overachiever. If he didn’t understand a subject he stayed after school for tutoring. Perfection was always the goal and his attention to detail paid off. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA and is graduating with honors as a track star, coach, church youth leader, Eagle Scout and Explorer Scout firefighter. He’s a great guy with a zest for life, a yen for adventure, a love of family and an eye toward the future. Most kids need a little breathing space before they go out into a world of responsibility. But we tend to load them down with advice. I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to introduce an old farmer (we’ll call him Frank) whose observations will make us laugh and shed some barnyard wisdom on how to live at any stage of life.
Barnyard Bob’s Advice Author unknown
1. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time. 2. Keep skunks and bankers at a distance. 3. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer. 4. Whispered words soak into your ears … not ones that are yelled. 5. If you get to thinking you’re a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else’s dog around. 6. The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with stares back at you from the mirror every morning. 7. Good judgment comes from experience and most of that comes from bad judgment. 8. Don’t interfere with something that isn’t bothering you none. 9. Most of the stuff people worry about will never happen. 10. Every path has a few puddles. 11. If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging! 12. Life is simpler when you plow around the stump. 13. Sometimes you get and sometimes you get got! 14. When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty. 15. Meanness doesn’t just happen overnight. 16. Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you. 17. A bumblebee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor. 18. It doesn’t take a very big person to carry a grudge. 19. You cannot unsay a cruel word. 20. Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads. 21. Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong. 22. Always drink upstream from the herd. 23. Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in. 24. Don’t judge folks by their relatives. 25. Live simply. Love generously. Care Deeply. Now this guy is a communicator at a level we can all understand. Of course, I could add a few thoughts of my own. But on the rocky road of life that we all travel, who’s going to remember anything else? Congratulations, Paul! We love you very much and are unbelievably proud of you. God bless your hopes and dreams as you move into this next arena of life. And best wishes to all graduates near and far. You did good and this is your moment to shine!
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. She is published in the Cottage Grove Sentinel and local Humane Society.