Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cleaning the creepy attic ignites memories

10/28/09 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Halloween may be the creepiest time of year but at least trick or treating reaps a sweet reward. One of my October jobs — cleaning the attic — is equally creepy and there’s no chocolate payoff.

We call it the attic but actually it’s a loft atop Chuck’s woodworking shop. He maintains that a real-man’s shop is not meant to be clean. So he shares his sawdust. It creeps upstairs adding a layer of grime to the dust and general clutter that a myriad variety of insects and critters call home: bats, spiders, mice, yellow jackets, flies and hundreds of Lady Bugs. Periodically, I have to show up and reclaim the space.

My goal list is simple: CLEAN OUT THE ATTIC is boldly printed at the top. Neatly indented under that line is 1: Separate into 4 piles — Keep; Garage Sale; Donations and Burn. 2. Sift, sort, box and organize the keepers. 3. Take donations away. 4. Set a garage sale date. 5. Light the burn pile!

Armed with vacuum, rags, cleaners, markers, razors and tape, I bravely climb the stairwell. Only bare light bulbs eerily cast shadows into the corners where unknown creatures lurk. Inevitably, I run smack into a huge spider web and hear skittering noises among the boxes. I jump and chills run down my spine.

Every year I ask myself the same question “Why are you doing this? Is this really important?” “Well, yes,” I answer. “You have to keep chipping away at the clutter. Things up there need sorting and cleaning. Besides, if you don’t do it now, when will you do it? In the dark, dreary days of rainy season? I don’t think so!”

Truth is, our attic mostly holds memories. It doesn’t hold real treasures of silver and gold. In fact, there’s very little up there that couldn’t be replaced at WalMart or even at most garage sales.

Part of the space is taken up with Christmas decorations. First, we have yard art: large decorative angels, deer, trees and signs. Then we have box after box of decorations, wrapping paper and even pinecones! Of course, these holiday items are all keepers. I call them “inventory.”

A majority of the space is taken up with summer items: umbrellas and stands, tables and chairs, fans, flower pots, etc. These seasonal items are also keepers, as are the boxes of books and Super 8 films.

Decision-making gets a little dicey when sentiment starts entering in. Do we keep our grown-up children’s long outgrown baby clothes? Well, of course, we do. My reasoning is this: We’ve already kept them 40-plus years. A little longer won’t hurt. Our grandchildren didn’t have their pictures taken in them but maybe our great-grandchildren will.

But maybe I’m wrong. Who knows? The jury is still out on this decision. So how about it kids, what do you think?

But there are more clothes decisions to make. My really nice square dancing outfits from years gone by are all boxed up. I saved them “just in case” we returned to dancing. Sadly, I don’t think that’s going to happen. This decision is a slam-dunk! Finally, something is going into the garage sale pile.

The next box of clothes I put in the ‘vintage’ category. Back in the day, people got seriously dressed up for special occasions. I’m talking chiffon and taffeta here. Way too charming to give away. So, I have kept formal dresses from dances, weddings and cruises dating from the 1950s.

Keeping them is very impractical. They’ll never be worn again. But then again, there are those future great-granddaughters. They might just love them. Hope springs eternal, you know.

Peering back into the deep recesses of the eaves I spy boxes that have been stored and ignored for 20 years. The time has come to attack them. They hold a lifetime of business paperwork and personal correspondence. Box after box has been unopened and untouched except for sticky spider webs and dying bugs. Ugh.

Shortly before moving to Oregon we sold our restaurant. Twice, while still in business, the IRS had audited us. We knew the value of keeping accurate records and receipts “just in case.” Well, we kept them way too long and now it was time to let them go.

Pound after pound of paper from those 8 boxes went out to the burn pile. The one exception was an unexpected treasure. Tucked in with payroll and tax records was a pair of alabaster bookends that we had purchased in Alaska in 1981. I wondered what happened to them. Now if I could just find the lazy susan that disappeared during the move.

The hardest boxes to open were the ones marked “correspondence” 1969-1988. Gulp. This was the pre-computer era. Friends and family actually wrote each other letters. I had saved every card, note and letter. Leafing through them brought such joy! What to do?

I quickly focused on the obvious. The commercial cards wouldn’t mean anything to anyone. They went to the burn pile. I spent hours sorting the notes and letters into categories: family, friends, church and business. I think that someday our kids will be surprised at how much written dialoging went on in our family.

On the last day Chuck ignited the burn pile that was piled high with summer’s debris. As it burned down we fed it box after box of material that documented our past but had no bearing on our present.

We wiped down the cobwebs, organized the boxes, vacuumed the floor and lost another 100 pounds to Goodwill. I shed a few tears and we both felt good about our collective efforts — until next year.

One final note: This column was inspired by a conversation with my friend who asked rhetorically, “Why do we save all of this stuff, anyway?” Here’s my theory — it’s not ‘stuff’ we’re saving. We’re saving memories. Memories that we hope will be passed down from generation to generation — forever and ever. That’s not creepy.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 
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Octoberfest menu and recipes

10/21/09 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Well, I’m almost a week late and a frankfurter short with this Oktoberfest column. For some reason, I think that this festival should be held in late October. However, In Munich, Germany, the birthplace of Oktoberfest, it is a 16-day long festival that begins in late September (the date varies) and runs through the first week of October. Here in the U.S. we stretch the celebration out a little longer.

Oktoberfest is essentially an annual on-going party that began in 1810 to honor the wedding of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the wedding festivities and horse races that lasted five days! Two hundred years later, the party is still going on.

Today, fairgoers come from around the world to the same field where the villagers attended the wedding reception. Every year, six million people attend the world’s largest People’s Fair. They come for the beer, the food, the beer, the carnival-like atmosphere and — the beer. The horse races stopped sometime in the 1960s.

If you watch any OPB travel shows, you’ve seen the 14 big beer tents (aka festival halls) jammed elbow to elbow with jolly drinking buddies. Buxom waitresses serve enthusiastic crowds of up to 10,000 per tent as they sing and sway to beer drinking songs.

Most North American Oktoberfest menus will revolve around some form of Bratwurst Sausage. These big, thick sausages are made of all meat with no filler. In Germany, the meat is usually veal. Here in the USA, veal is too expensive. So, brats are usually all pork, all beef or a combination of pork and beef or veal.

Brats are not for the sensitive palate. They are highly seasoned with a variety of spices that can include caraway (my favorite), coriander, cumin, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg and paprika. The meat can be finely or coarsely ground and this will also affect the brat's texture and flavor.

The mode of cooking is your choice but all Bratwurst must be cooked before eating. Some brats are smoked while others are grilled or simmered in water. Some cooks simmer them in beer for 20-25 min. Those who prefer a milder taste can briefly parboil them until the outside turns white. This will leach out some of the fat and spices. They can then be browned in a skillet or outside on the barbecue grill.

German food is very substantial and I’ll be honest with you, the summer we were in Bavaria I thought that if I ever ate another sausage again it would be too soon! But I do love the side dishes. So today I am happy to pass along two recipes from reader Mary Gary.

Ed and Mary Gary retired to Cottage Grove from California. Their church in the golden state had an annual Oktoberfest dinner and Mary gleaned these recipes from those occasions. She and Ed have also enjoyed German food at Leavenworth and in Austria. The recipes call for using a Dutch oven (a cast iron pot) but any heavy skillet or cooking pot will do.

The last recipe is another traditional way to serve bratwurst and sauerkraut. It is also really good with the new lower-fat-content chicken Italian Sausages. Served in a bun or with a side of buttered mashed potatoes and a dollop of brown mustard on the sausage, your kids might even try it. And you can always substitute hot dogs for queasy stomachs. Enjoy!

Oktoberfest Menu suggestions

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
Hot German Potato Salad
Kaiser Rolls
Black Forest Cake
German Chocolate Cake with
Coconut Pecan Frosting

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
Mary Gary

1 head red cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 red apple, peeled and chopped
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup raisins

Put coarsely chopped red cabbage and apple in Dutch oven and cover with boiling salted water. Return to boil, cover and simmer 1/2 hour. Add vinegar and brown sugar and simmer 20 minutes longer. Add cinnamon and raisins.

May be made a day or two ahead and kept refrigerated.

Note: Brats can be cooked separately or added to cooked cabbage and simmered about 20 minutes or until cooked through and no longer raw. Serves 6.

Hot German Potato Salad
Mary Gary

9 medium Idaho baking potatoes
6 slices bacon, cut in ½-inch pieces
½ cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon pepper
¾ cup water
¼ cup vinegar (scant)

Peel potatoes and cook in 2-inches salted water in Dutch oven 20-25 minutes or until firm, but tender. Drain and refrigerate.

In large skillet, fry bacon until crisp, remove and drain. Cook and stir onion in bacon drippings until tender and golden brown. Stir in flour, sugar, salt, celery seed and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until bubbly. Remove from heat, stir in water and vinegar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir one minute. Thinly slice potatoes and add with bacon to hot mixture. Stir carefully and heat through.
Serves 6.

Note: Above recipes are adapted from “Key Home Gourmet”

Bratwurst and Sauerkraut

2 pounds bratwurst
2 16-ounce jars sauerkraut
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
Condiment: Brown or hot mustard
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Layer sauerkraut in a 12X12 glass baking dish and sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar. Score the sausages and place them on the kraut. Bake for one hour, turning after 30 minutes. Serves 6.
Note: Serve on a crusty bun or with hot, buttered mashed potatoes. Also good with Hot German Potato Salad.

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. Read her columns in the C.G. Sentinel or email

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oregon neighbors surviving in Samoa

10/14/09 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The chilling news of the Samoa islands tsunami devastation swept through our neighborhood like a cold winter wind. A magnitude 8.0 earthquake had struck the Samoan capital Apia, about 7 a.m. on Sept. 29. The quake triggered a series of huge tsunamis waves, 15-20 feet high that traveled nearly a mile inland. With only 10 minutes warning, entire coastal families and villages were wiped out.

We were especially concerned because of our connection to that area. Our former neighbors Jack and Carol Bachelor were living in a village 45-minutes distance from Apia. The next day an email from Carol calmed our fears. The couple was alive. They had survived a life and death situation and lost all of their material goods but they were physically safe. We all breathed a guarded sigh of relief.

Jack and Carol Bachelor are longtime neighbors that we knew casually. They lived at the top of the hill. We live at the bottom. They were busy in their respective construction and banking jobs and raising a family. Retired, we chatted with them in the aisles of Cascade or Safeway, waved as they drove by and met at the occasional garage sale. Their move to Samoa to rebuild a resort that they had visited over the years was a surprise to most of us.

Lupe Sina Beach Resort is a beautiful place. Its setting encompasses the ocean, palm trees, tropical gardens and a spectacular waterfall. Until the tsunami the grounds included a large conference room and stage for conventions and meetings; a full-service restaurant and sports bar; 16 fales (bungalows), a gift shop and bicycle rentals. According to the resort’s webite, the fales were “just steps away from the soft white sand beach and crystal clear waters.”

In March Jack began roofing and painting the buildings at the resort. Carol joined him in June and their new lifestyle in a tropical setting was put into place. Now almost everything that they had hoped or dreamed for is gone. According to Carol’s email, “Our entire resort was destroyed. All of the beach fales were washed completely to the sea.”

But the worst part was the loss of life. Carol’s story has been told previously in the media but bears some retelling. It emphasizes the strength and compassion of the human spirit and reminds us of the power of Mother Nature.

On that fateful morning, during the earthquake, the couple stepped outside to discover that the ocean was gone! Jack immediately told Carol to run to higher ground. As she started running, he headed next door to warn his friend Kenny’s family. By that time the water was waist high and rising. He grabbed two of their babies but was forced underwater until… “The rising waters ripped one from his arms and was lost to the sea.” As the waves pushed him down, Jack tossed the remaining baby onto the rocks and fought for his life until the water receded.

Miraculously, Jack and Carol were reunited although he sustained a badly injured leg wound. Kenny was lost to the sea but his wife and one baby survived. 80-percent of Lupe Sina’s employees died.

The next day, Carol’s email from the U.S. embassy to family and friends began with these words: “Thanks be to God Almighty and his precious son Jesus, we are alive and well.”

Jack’s mother, Opal Bachelor, recalls her first short conversation with her son from the embassy. A voice (on a poor connection) said, “Call from Jack Bachelor.” Then, Jack’s voice said, “Hello, mom, hello!”

“How are you?” asked Opal. “We are alive!” Jack answered. Then he broke down. “I had the two little ones …”

They could only talk a few minutes but he called the next night and again, Opal said, “He could not get the baby out of his mind.”

Other conversations reveal the scope of damage both emotionally and physically. Opal observes that some days they are stronger than others but notes that “All they can talk about is death and destruction.”

Opal is encouraged that help is on the way. She oversaw the packing of one 20-ft. and two 40-ft. containers packed with personal items, household goods, a laptop computer, a tractor, utility trailer, tools and building materials. Other donations have come from Market of Choice and emergency supplies (baby formula, Ensure, medications) from a PeaceHealth clinic with shipping donated by UPS.

On Oct. 8, I received this email from Carol:
“Having survived something of this magnitude has strengthened both of our faiths. I am amazed everyday by the generosity and kindness of others. The people who survived the tsunami are rebuilding in the hills where the plantations are.

“There is still no water, electricity, sewer or in many places phone reception. But God is good. He provides beyond belief. Even when we give away (everything) that some one has been kind enough to drop off for us, we come back to a new supply. You can’t out-give God. He is our strength and our shield.

“They keep discovering more dead bodies daily. The Australian Army came in with German Shepherd search and rescue dogs and they are combing the area. The pictures that you see on TV do not do this justice. Entire villages, entire families have been washed away.

“God put us in Samoa for a reason and it is to help these amazing people. Any help you or your readers can provide is greatly appreciated. We will make sure it gets to those with the greatest need.”

The television show “Survivor Samoa” was filmed earlier this summer near the area of the earthquake generated tsunami. May I suggest that the true survivors are the Samoans without shelter, food, water, and blankets or loved ones. They are gritting it out day by day. Their reward is life, not a million dollars!
The Bachelors would like to help their new neighbors but need funds to do so. Donations in the their name are being accepted at all branches of Northwest Community Credit Union.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her via e-mail at

Whistler a great place for the Olympics

10/07/09 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Do you like to travel? Do you enjoy the Olympic Games? Well, then, come along with me on a short jaunt to visit one of our neighbors. Our destination is the resort town of Whistler, B.C., Canada, one of the sites of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Whistler has been on our list of places to go for years. But somehow, Vancouver (its metropolitan neighbor) always detoured us from making the short jaunt up Highway 99 on the Sea to Sky Highway to what is known as “The Village.”

We had been told not to expect very much of the area. Comments from seasoned visitors of 20 years ago were not encouraging. They ranged from “Well, it’s certainly a nice drive,” to “Boring,” and “It’s just a village. There’s no reason to trek up there to do nothing.”

Ah, but times have changed and the village is bustling not boring. In fact, with the Olympics just around the corner, the whole Vancouver area is as busy as beavers building dams in a creek.

Vancouver-Whistler was chosen as the site for the winter games in 2003. Since then, skilled workers have been in short supply and cost overrides constant. They are building roads, a rapid transit system, a nine block Olympic Village to house 10,000 occupants, and of course, the many venues. Some estimate the 2010 Olympics may cost Canada as much as $1.6 billion. From what I’ve seen, they’ll easily recoup their money.

Driving up the Sea to Summit highway we began to relax as we wound high above the cliffs of Howe Sound and headed into wooded areas. The newly widened and landscaped highway is a joy to drive. There were no billboards to distract from the natural beauty. Instead, tastefully lighted and carved wooden signs alert travelers to scenic bypasses, landmarks, lodging, restaurants and other businesses.

We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Whistler’s only RV Resort. Riverside RV is a village in itself beginning with the large log cabin lodge, a cafĂ©, individual rental log cabins plus tenting areas down by the creek. A van shuttle was conveniently available by reservation from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

We discovered that there are three kinds of Whistler visitors. Day visitors are nicely dressed, hustle through the village, check out the shops, have a bite to eat and head back down the hill. Athletic visitors have a plethora of activities to choose from, come dressed accordingly and spend the day. Casual, camper types such as ourselves amble around in jeans, check out the shops and then sit down and check out the people.

The Upper Village, at the foot of Blackcomb Mountain, houses some very high-end hotels and seriously well-heeled guests. We enjoyed the afternoon tea at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and felt like country bumpkins as we ogled the clientele. My, oh, my! Flowery summer dresses on the ladies and men in slacks and ties made me wish I had packed some nicer clothes.

The Lower Village at the foot of Whistler Mountain is where the winning Olympians will receive their medals at a newly constructed staging area. It is a mosh pit of ski lifts and activity.

It is also where all the shopping happens. Warning: there are no bargains. This is an expensive shopping area. I gulped more than once at a $200 price tag on a sweatshirt. Items marked with the XXI Olympic Winter Games logo, however, were selling like hot cakes.

The XXI Olympic logo Inuksuit, is a native stone sculpture in human shape. He’s an artistic but controversial pile of rocks with a green head, bulky blue body and thick legs. So what’s the problem? Well, the image by graphic artist Elena Rivera MacGregor was meant to remind the world of multiculturalism and diversity. Instead, it has been ridiculed as a Pac-Man or Frankenstein and rejected by most Native populations.

Adrenaline junkies can certainly get their fill in the Whistler area at any time of the year. Depending on your levels of courage and fitness, there’s something for everyone. One of the best seats in the village was at Black’s Pub where you could sit outdoors, have a great meal and watch the action.

There, at the bottom of the mountain, hundreds of people chose to swing like Tarzan on a zipline through the forest. They signed up, briefly trained and were transported to the forest. Others chose bungee jumping, ATVs or electric bicycle tours. Still others decided on white water river rafting. We chose none of the above. We’re too old and fragile.

We also didn’t spend $5,000 on a mountain bike, don a full-face helmet, body armor —wrist, elbow, knee and shin pads — or buy a season ticket on the gondola to the top of Whistler. There, bikers (male and female; young and old) choose their course and have the ride of their lives navigating obstacles and inclines. We saw many a broken body and bike come limping down that popular course.

We did, however, hop on our touring bikes and spend time exploring the 19 mile Valley Trail that winds through an old growth forest, skirts million dollar houses near several lakes and ends at the Jack Nicklaus golf course near the village.

Another day we braved the stomach churning, Peak to Peak gondola ride 2.7 miles UP to Whistler then across to Blackcomb mountain and back again. We chose not to ride in a glass bottom model but could clearly see bears and bikers — 1,427 ft. below! You share the gondolas and chair lifts up the first mountain with the bikers. It’s a hoot to see them maneuver into those little capsules.

Soon Whistler will be blanketed with a thick layer of snow. Come February they will host competitions in the Bobsled, Luge, Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing and Biathalon categories. We’d love to be there but the “No Vacancy” signs are already out. Fortunately we reserved warm, front-row seats in front of our television. Thanks for coming along on the ride. Now, "Go, USA!"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fried Green Tomatoes

9/30/09 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Summer’s days have dwindled down to a precious few but still the garden lingers on. Much to my husband’s dismay, there’s still a few zucchini hiding under the drooping plant leaves. I’m the only one who swoons when it’s steamed with a little onion, sprinkled with melted cheese and herbs. Zucchini and green tomatoes he can do without.

Green tomatoes are also lurking amidst the ripe, bug-eaten ones of late summer. Fried green tomatoes are a relatively new once-a-year treasure in our household. I grew up on Southern cooking but for some reason fried green tomatoes were never on the menu. My grandpa always picked only the red ones.

Since moving to Oregon, I’ve discovered that not all of the tomatoes will ripen before winter sets in. So, although we don’t eat many fried foods at our house anymore, once a year we eat fried green tomatoes. Chuck samples them but really doesn’t understand why I bother.

The reason is simple. I can’t stand to see the green ones go to waste. And truth be told, until now, my recipe has been pretty plain and boring. But now I’ve discovered the queen of fried green tomatoes recipes. The exterior is crunchy, the interior is a soft, tart contrast and the Buttermilk-Lime Dressing takes them from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Now if you’re shaking your head saying, “No way am I eating green tomatoes,” I say, “Try them!” What have you got to lose besides tomatoes that were going into the compost pile anyway? Just pretend that they’re healthy. You know, the last (fried) green salad of summer. Enjoy!

Fried Green Tomatoes
Adapted from
“The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook”

3 pounds green tomatoes (6-8 medium)
3 large eggs, beaten
¾ cup whole milk
3 cups peanut oil
3 batches Lee Bros. All-Purpose Fry Dredge (recipe follows)
Kosher salt, if needed
Lemon juice, if needed

½ cup flour
3 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper together twice. Stir and turn out onto a flat surface.

Buttermilk-Lime Dressing

¾ cup whole or lowfat buttermilk
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice (3-4 limes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup fresh basil, finely minced
¼ cup green onion, finely minced
¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, finely minced
½ teaspoon salt, more if needed

In a small bowl, whisk the ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator not more than 2 days.

To prepare:
First prepare the Buttermilk-Lime Dressing and refrigerate.
Next, prepare the dredge and set aside.

Cut the stem ends from the tomatoes and slice ¼-inch thick with a serrated knife. Set aside. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a broad, shallow bowl.

Pour the oil into a 12-inch skillet, heat over medium-high heat until the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 365° F. (If using a different size skillet or pan, fill with oil to a depth of 1/3-inch.)

Heat oven to 225 F. Set a bakers rack on a cookie sheet on the top rack.

Press 1 tomato slice into the dredge, once on each side, shaking any excess loose. Dunk in the egg mixture, then dredge the slice on both sides again. Shake off any excess and place the slice on a clean plate. Repeat with more slices until you’ve dredged enough for a batch (3-4 slices). With a spatula, transfer the first batch of slices to the oil.

As the first batch cooks, dredge the second batch of tomatoes, keeping a watchful eye on the first. Once the slices have fried to a rich golden brown on one side, flip them carefully and fry for 2 minutes more, or until golden brown. Transfer the fried tomatoes to a plate lined with a double thickness of paper towels and to drain for 1 minute.

Transfer the slices to the baker’s rack in the oven, arranging them in a single layer, so they remain warm and crisp. Repeat with the remaining slices until all the green tomatoes have been fried. Serve immediately with Buttermilk-Lime Dressing.

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. 

True or false: Internet trivia

9/23/09 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

My “inbox” of useless Internet trivia is officially full. In fact, it runneth over. Some days I think that the whole world has my email address and is compelled to share the latest scam, photo, or bizarre ‘facts’ with me. Naturally, I don’t just delete all of this stuff. No, I’m a keeper. Some of them I save “just in case.”

Why? Heaven only knows. Maybe it’s just for a day like today. On warm Indian summer days I have no desire to stay in the house parked in front of a computer. The dogs are nipping at my heels to go for a walk and a magazine is screaming to be read. I’d really like to take a nap but deadlines loom.

So this week’s column offering is a plethora of trivia from my computer to yours. But please don’t ask me to verify all of the information. Obviously the senders didn’t. Some of it, however, I checked out. Some of it I didn’t because this column is just for fun. It’s meant to pique your curiosity and give you an excuse to say, “Oh, that’s really dumb.”

We’ll start with this so-called ‘fact’: “No piece of paper can be folded in half more than seven (7) times.” Okay, go ahead, I’ll wait while you try this one out.

This fact will be reassuring to those of you who are afraid to fly or swim in the ocean: “Donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes or shark attacks.” Now how can that be? Are there that many mean donkeys in the world? This bears looking into — someday!

This fact could save your life: “The liquid inside young coconuts can be used (in emergencies) as a substitute for blood plasma.” I had to check this one out and according to it’s true. The water in coconut is liquid endosperm. Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is sterile and has an ideal ph level. Drink up!

“Oak trees do not produce acorns until they are 50 years of age or older.” No wonder they live so long. They have a lot of reproductive time to make up!

For all of you non-morning folks out there, check this out: “Apples, not caffeine, are more efficient at waking you up in the morning.” Can’t quite agree with that one but maybe it depends on your metabolism.

On the other hand, if you like to sleep in front of the television, check this one out: “You burn more calories sleeping than you do watching television.” At least this gives us a good excuse!

I had to look at a deck of cards to see if this was true: “The King of Hearts is the only king without a moustache.” Yep. That’s correct.

Those of you who are into astronomy probably already know this one: “Venus is the only planet that rotates clockwise, contrary to its own orbit around the Sun.” There’s lots of speculation as to the reason but no one really knows why this is so.

And ladies, if your favorite jewelry is a ‘pearl,’ remember this: “Pearls melt in vinegar.” Well, technically, the vinegar dissolves them. They don’t melt. Same difference. They’re ruined.

Now, here are a couple of animal facts that are fallacies:
“A duck’s quack doesn’t echo.” Not true. They echo quite well.
“Ostrich eggs have no yolks.” Actually, they do have yolks and they are supposed to be very tasty.

This one makes sense to me: “It is possible to lead a cow upstairs … but not downstairs.” Makes sense to me. I mean cows are big and clumsy, right? I gave up looking for the answer when I came across multiple chat room conversations on the subject and a book “Can Cows Walk Down Stairs?” If you know the answer to this, please let me know.

Here’s a piece of financial trivia for you: “American Airlines saved $40,000 in 1987 by eliminating one (1) olive from each salad served in first-class.” Salads? They serve salads? You can tell I’ve never flown first-class!

Here’s a sad fact: “The first owner of the Marlboro Company died of lung cancer. So did the first ‘Marlboro Man.’” Is there any other reason to quit smoking?

This next fact can really lead one down a rabbit trail. It claims that the three most valuable brand names on earth are Marlboro, Coca Cola and Budweiser, in that order. Of course, ‘value’ is a subjective term so I checked it out.

According to the brands must be worth more than $1 billion, marketed globally and make sufficient data publically available. As for the above list, it is constantly changing. The last survey I saw was dated 2008. It listed Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, GE, Nokia, Toyota, Intel, McDonalds, Disney and Google. Sorry, no Marlboro or Budweiser.

This next fact grossed me out and screamed for verification. The reported fact is this: “Most dust particles in your house are made of dead skin.”

According to, dust particles inside your house have three main components: dead skin cells, the dried feces and desiccated corpses of dust mite and tiny fibers shed by clothing. From this description my imagination conjured up dust bunnies of so- called corpses lurking under the dryer, refrigerator and furniture.

Then I checked and came up with this answer: re: dead skin dust particles: “…unless you’re a molting bird or reptile, very little of your environment is composed of dead body parts. Humans do shed dead skin but most of it is carried away by weather or when we shave or bathe.”

On that note, we’ll end this discourse with a reason to face your fears and emerge a successful entertainment mogul: “Walt Disney was afraid of MICE!”

Remember, it must be true because I learned it on the Internet.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.
 e-mail —

Canning tips for experts and novices

September 16, 2009
Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Yippee! Canning season is almost over and soon it will be time to rest. Pears, tomatoes and salsa are now joining the sparkling jars of apricots, peaches, green beans, jams and jellies adorning the pantry shelves. They are the jewels of all homemaker's larders.

I have a love/hate relationship with the canning process. The love part began about 40 years ago when my neighbor taught me to can tomatoes. It was love at first bite and I quickly became hooked.

That is not to say that I actually enjoy the process. I don’t exactly hate it but it certainly can be tedious and exhausting. It’s a lot of work to grow, weed, water, harvest, clean and prepare produce for canning. And it’s not cheap when you factor in soil amendments, seeds, seedlings, jars, seals, lids, sugar and more.

But let’s face it, the toil and yes, frustration is all worth it on a dreary winter day when you open your own golden jar of peaches. Absolutely nothing you buy in the market can equal the taste and texture of your own preserved fruits or vegetables.

This year’s hot, dry weather produced an abundance of produce and our garden was quickly in full swing. Once crops are ripe for picking and processing, there’s no time for procrastination. The fruit of your labors will rot what you don’t eat, process or give it away.

Home canning is an ever-changing science. It involves much more than just putting food in jars and processing them. The importance of keeping up with the times is clear in this bulletin from the OSU Extension Service. It says: “Throw Grandma’s old canning recipes away if you want to avoid food-borne illnesses …”

The OSU Extension Service is really your go-to expert for all things canning. So if you’re not up to speed on the latest recommendations, check out their website and get caught up. Their tested canning recipes can be purchased at the office, ordered or downloaded at:

They also offer a wonderful Food Safety/Preservation Hotline. It is staffed by certified volunteers and Extension staff, Mon.—Thurs., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each of the individuals staffing the hotline has passed a certification exam and completed a 40-hour course in food preservation and safety. Call with your questions at 682-4246.

Food columnist Jan Roberts-Dominguez recently had a great article on canning tomatoes in the Oregonian newspaper. She said that today’s tomatoes are bred to be meatier than older varieties and therefore have become less acidic.

Today it is recommended that we add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to check the growth of botulism in our tomato products. Most of us old-time canners only added salt when canning our tomato products. Read all about it in Dominguez’ step-by-step article on the web at:

Now, if you’re a canning newbie, do not let all of this information scare you off. Get a canning buddy, take a class, ask a neighbor, buy a book and jump right in like you know what you’re doing. Once you’re hooked, you’ll never want to stop.

The first rule for all canners is to read updated instructions and processing times at the beginning of the canning season. The second rule is to never take shortcuts. Other basic rules are: Use standard Ball or Kerr canning jars, lids and seals; do not use overripe produce; never use chipped jars; never re-use seals and process jars for the full time called for. If jars don’t seal, discard the seal and either re-process, refrigerate or freeze the product.

Try enlisting a helper to make the job go faster. My husband is my canning prep cook and helper. Years ago after working 12-hour days in the restaurant, we would come home, eat dinner and start canning. We have continued that tradition to this day (although we now start and end long before midnight!).

As far as recipes go, I’m pretty basic. I don’t have the patience to clean, cook and process tuna or other meats. And I’ve never been really happy with the results of my attempts at making apple pie filling or spaghetti sauce with meat. I just stick to plain Jane fruits and vegetables that I can dress up later.

This summer our Bartlett pear tree decided to bless us with a nice crop. Following is a recipe that I’m going to try in addition to my usual pear butter. Let me know how you like it. Enjoy!

Smiley’s Red Barn Blog

2 oranges
4 pounds pears (9 cups, diced)
2 cups canned crushed pineapple
Sugar (See below)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 8-oz. bottle maraschino cherries
(thinly sliced)

Wash and remove peel from oranges. Add 1 quart of water to peel and boil 5 minutes. Drain and discard water. Add another quart water, boil 5 minutes. Drain and discard water. Grind the peel and the peeled oranges together. (You should be able to do this in a blender if you don’t have a grinder.)

Wash, pare and remove core of pears, cut into small pieces. Combine oranges, pears and pineapple. Measure. Add half as much sugar as fruit mixture. Add lemon juice and mix thoroughly.

Cook rapidly until almost thick (about 40 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add cherries and cook about 5 minutes longer. Pour into sterilized Kerr jars to within 1/2 inch of top. Put on cap, screw band firmly tight. Process in Boiling Water Bath 10 minutes. Yield: 6 eight oz. jars.

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. email