Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cottage Grove is home to hundreds of helping hands

1/26/11 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Back in my newsroom days one of my favorite tasks was writing “Neighborhood News.” Readers would send or call in snippets of news and I would package them in a column with other items of interest. It kept me in touch with the community at large and in turn, kept residents in touch with each other.

Through those contacts, I discovered that Cottage Grove is an amazingly diverse place with a fascinating array of people. Maybe that’s why I took affront recently when I read in the Register Guard that in 2009 a reporter from The New Yorker magazine had described our area as “home to hippies and hillbillies in equal measure.”

I beg to differ. Sure we have hippies and hillbillies among us but they’re not alone. The Grove is home to a wide spectrum of folks from all walks of life. An amazingly diverse and generous group of residents live here who rub shoulders daily and when they see a need — they pool their resources to get the job done.

Every day there are unsung heroes volunteering time and effort around town to make Cottage Grove a warm, welcoming and comfortable place for all of us to live — including the homeless.

Area churches for many years have been feeding the homeless. “Soup’s On’ is the new kid on the block serving meals at the Community Center each Sunday. Sharon Jean is the coordinator for the event that is sponsored by many service organizations. A brown-bag lunch for the next day is also offered.

Locally, a hot meal is available most nights to those living on the streets and other individuals and families who need a hand-up during these hard times. Attendance varies but usually there are 15 — 30 people at each venue. Call for times:
Tuesday and Thursday: Trinity Lutheran Church
Wednesday: Church of the Nazarene
(Laundromat services also available call church for information)
Friday: United Methodist Church
Sunday: Cottage Grove Community Center

Every Nov. First Baptist Church puts together a Thanksgiving feast for anyone wanting to come out of the cold and join together around the table for good food and warm fellowship. They even deliver their delicious dinners to those shut-in and unable to leave their homes.

Last year, CG Beds for Freezing Nights, a compassionate ministry, was formed in response to the homeless among us who might need shelter when the weather goes down to 29 degrees or below. Their mission is to provide a safe, warm place to sleep for those who wish to come inside during the coldest nights of the year.” BNF is a registered non-profit organization with the state of Oregon with an elected board of directors.

It is estimated that there are about 25 chronically homeless individuals in our area So far, the 40 on-call (trained) volunteers outnumber those who have taken advantage of the opportunity to sleep inside out of the elements. Since Nov. 23 there have been three activations or times when First Presbyterian Church and Our Lady of Perpetual Help stood ready to open their doors at night due to cold weather. Guests have been scarce, only about 3 persons per night.

“This is a work in progress,” according to Cindy Weeldreyer, BFN Board Secretary. “We are wondering if the need is as great as in the larger metro area. Community Sharing is preparing a questionnaire for their homeless clients asking if they have heard about BFN and if so, why are they not using it?”

“If less than five people consistently use the warming centers there may be other options to help such as motel and food vouchers. We do know that some homeless individuals have their own homestead (i.e. campsite) and fear having their place trashed, things stolen, or other people move in if they leave.”

Weeldreyer stressed that the community has been very generous in meeting their needs and indicated that the board will re-evaluate the program at the end of the season. A shelter for transition with a day center is the ultimate goal to assist the homeless.

For over 30 years, Habitat for Humanity has been partnering with homeowners to build simple, decent housing for families. The houses are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable, no-interest mortgages. That money goes into a revolving fund and is used to build more houses.

Last month, the local Cottage Grove Habitat affiliate turned over the keys of a new house to Betty Havens. It took three years to get the permits and building done but perseverance paid off. This is the 11th house that the local Habitat has built.

“It takes literally hundreds of volunteers to put one of these projects together. But thanks to people who give, who work and who care, we got it done!” said Board President Kay Habenick.

“Literally a moveable feast of people came to help,” added Habenick. "A stay-at-home-dad came at night and painted the entire house; a retired doctor laid flooring and installed light fixtures; several Renaissance men came and did whatever needed to be done. There were cement trucks, electricians, plumbers, cabinet installers, shoppers, buyers and of course, the home owner’s sweat equity.”

Yep. Cottage Grove is a special place and it is home to special people who care about each other. No, it’s not a perfect place and we’re not perfect people. But I’m proud to call it home.

P.S. One final note. I would like to thank all of you who called, sent cards or otherwise wished me a happy birthday on Jan. 13. It was a great day! I saved all of the messages on my answering machine until it overflowed. I am grateful to my husband for his love and inspiration to surprise me and the Sentinel staff that helped put it all together. Thanks to all!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. 
Read her weekly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel newspaper.

Cookie Jar Cookies

1/19/11 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

There’s nothing more humbling to a recipe columnist that leaving a vital ingredient (or two!) out of a recipe. Mea culpa. Last month in one of my Christmas cookie recipes, I unknowingly screwed up big-time, when I entered the wrong amounts. I turned in the column before the recipes were published, and then left town and was incommunicado.

A couple of weeks later, I came home to questions on my answering machine that went like this: “The recipe for the Almond Cutout Cookies only calls for 1 teaspoon flour. Is that correct?” And “Is there supposed to be baking powder in those cookies? It doesn’t say so in the ingredient list but it mentions it in the body of the recipe.”

Now I am usually not at my best during the month of December but this was a new low! So, the answers to the above questions are: No, that was not the correct amount of flour. It should have been 4-1/3 cups flour. And yes, the recipe did call for 1 teaspoon of baking powder. That omission, however, was not as crucial as the flour.

The corrected recipe is printed in its entirety in this column. One of my callers said that she just “eyeballed it” (the dough) and the cookies turned out great. Goofs like this are the reason that I put my phone number at the bottom of every column. At this rate I may start adding my cell phone number.

Soups were going to be the subject of today’s column but I think I’ll leave that for another day. Today we’ll add some everyday drop cookie recipes to top off December’s intricate creations.

Old-fashioned cookie jar style cookies are just the right thing to calm a sweet tooth on these cold winter days. The following applesauce-raisin cookies are chock full of fruits and nuts to add to your daily dietary quota. And who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies? Make a batch or two today. Enjoy!


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Lemon Glaze:
1 cup(s) confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 2 large cookie sheets.

2. On waxed paper, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.

3. In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in egg, applesauce, and vanilla until well combined. Beat in flour mixture just until blended. With spoon, stir in apple, raisins, and walnuts if using.

4. Drop dough by rounded measuring tablespoons, 1 inch apart, on prepared cookie sheets. Bake cookies on 2 oven racks 20 to 22 minutes or until lightly browned around edges and set, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower racks halfway through baking.

5. Prepare Lemon Glaze: In small bowl, stir confectioners' sugar and lemon juice until smooth.

6. Transfer cookies to wire racks. With pastry brush, brush glaze over warm cookies; cool completely.


3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Line cookie sheets with parchment or lightly spray with cooking spray.

Cream the butter, sugars, eggs together then add the vanilla, salt and baking soda. Scrape the sides and add the baking powder and flour. Mix till incorporated and add the walnuts and chocolate chips just till mixed.

Scoop and bake at 350° F. 12-15 min. or until golden brown. Makes about 2 dozen cookies according to scoop size!

(Corrected recipe)

1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
3 teaspoons almond extract, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
4-1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Food Color

Beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add sour cream, eggs, 2 teaspoons almond extract and vanilla; beat until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; beat just until well blended.

Divide dough into 4 pieces; flatten each piece into a disk. Wrap each disk tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.

When read to bake, preheat oven to 375° F.

Working with 1 disk of dough at a time, roll dough out onto floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut dough into desired shapes using 2-1/2 inch cookie cutters. Place about 2-inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 7-8 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are brown. Remove from baking sheets to wire rack to cool.

To frost: Combine powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup and remaining 1 teaspoon almond extract in small bowl; stir until smooth.

Divide icing among 3 or 4 small bowls; tint with desired food color. Frost cookies. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Note: This frosting recipe is a great basic recipe to have in your baking box of tricks. Use it to frost cookies, drizzle over coffee cakes or wherever you need a touch of sweetness.

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 weekly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel newspaper.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Looking at life through the rear view mirror

1/12/11 Chatterbox         
Betty Kaiser

Birthdays: Celebrating the seasons of life

Hey, all of you Capricorns out there — Happy Birthday! January is also my birthday month. And at my age, I’m a cheap date. Birthday cards are necessary but gifts and elaborate celebrations are optional.

As a kid, I would have rated birthday parties and gifts right up there with Christmas — mandatory! We girls dressed up in our best frilly skirts and patent leather shoes and played Pin-the-Tale on the donkey as we ate cake and ice cream and giggled.

Those were the wonder years.

After that, we set our sites higher and began to anticipate ‘being older.’ Dating cool guys and driving at 16 were milestone events. At 18 we graduated from high school and really thought that we were grown-up. Most of us were married with kids before it was legal to drink at the age of 21.

In fact, we grew up so quickly that I remember being appalled the year of my 30th birthday. Suddenly, I was old! My grandparents had died in their early 60s and I was halfway there. Statistically, I thought I was almost dead. Now I wish I could be so “old.”

On my 40th birthday a restaurant customer brought me a pin to wear that said “I remember when I thought people my age were old.” My, how times change!  That pin is now 30 years old and still hangs on my bulletin board to remind me of my youth.

There were big celebrations for my 50th and 70th birthdays but the years in-between have been quiet. Now, birthdays are a great time to look in the rearview mirror of life and see where I’ve been on this windy road of changing decades. As I recall the past, I marvel at how I’ve been divinely led and provided for in each stage of life. Looking back gives me hope as I face the unknown future of aging.

Hands down, the very best times of my life were the growing years of our family. Our children have always been my greatest joy. They are the crowning jewels of my life; the most important thing I’ve ever done. And while I am proud of their achievements as adults, it is our interaction as a growing family that I remember most fondly.

Their father and I had many dreams when we married but topping the list was building a family. I remember holding each tiny new baby after they were born, counting their little fingers and toes and marveling at what we and God had created. Everything about them was fascinating to me: that first smile, rolling over (and nearly off the bed!), crawling from one room to another and taking that first tentative step all were miracles.

Kathy, the oldest, was such a sweet, well-behaved, girly girl, that the ladies in our neighborhood used to call and make reservations for her to come and have tea parties at their house. Really, they did that! That’s when her father nicknamed her “Princess.”

Jeff, on the other hand, was all boy. He was never invited to tea. He was the busy little 5-year old who split his head open one year on the first day of vacation at Big Bear Lake. He and his siblings were jumping on the beds at the Gray Squirrel Cabins Lodge when he fell and hit a windowsill. It was a Sunday. There was no hospital. A doctor had to be called and his father had to hold him while his head was stitched. I can still hear him screaming; but later, he was swimming with a shower cap on his head in an inner tube!

Long before Facebook, John, the youngest, had the most friends. Starting as a pre-schooler he often walked hand and hand with his little girl friends. Later, he drove his 1968 Apathy Bug (Volkswagen) packed with his buddies. He also, however, always dreaded that first day of school question: “Kaiser? Are you related to Jeff Kaiser?”

I have many favorite memories that revolve around foreign exchange students. Our first set of students I picked up at Ventura College where the kids were taking swimming lessons. I innocently signed a sheet indicating interest in housing two young men from France who were training for the Olympics. By the time I arrived home, my application had been accepted and the boys were on the way!

Lionel and Andy were six-footers. They not only ate us out of house and home but also scared us to death. One evening Chuck heard a loud commotion in the bathtub. He went in to find a sea of blood. The boys had donned Speedos and were shaving themselves from head to toe for Olympic time trials the next day. Ouch!

Our short street was home to 21 youngsters (10 from the same family) and sometimes there were turf wars. One summer afternoon our boys were outnumbered and losing very badly in a water balloon fight. Mom and dad to the rescue! Dad climbed on the roof with a hose and mom filled buckets of water to soak the invaders. “Never mess with the Kaisers” was our motto.

Folks, the times of our lives are not measured by how big of a house we own, the car we drive, or the places we’ve been. No, the times of our lives cannot be measured at all. How can you measure the bonding qualities of love, laughter and the joys of childhood? It’s impossible. They are priceless, abundant and overflowing — and unique to you and yours.

King Solomon said, “There’s a time and a season for everything.” This is my season to be “older;” to take out the jewels in my treasury box of memories and celebrate each of the seasons of my life.

How about you? Do you celebrate the times of your life? Check them out on your birthday. You’ll be amazed at how rich your life has been.

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

Coffee, coffee filters and chewy chocolate coffee brownies

1/05/11 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Well, here it is a new year and I don’t know about you but I’m stuffed. Over the holidays, I ate too much, I ate too fast and now I’m tired of cooking! So, we’re going to change gears today and talk about coffee. Well, a little bit about coffee as a beverage but mostly some really interesting household hints on different ways to use inexpensive coffee filters.

At our house we brew coffee in a Mr. Coffee drip machine. I think. Maybe it’s a Black and Decker. Whatever kind of machine you use, the experts at the Coffee Association of U.S.A., say it should be thoroughly cleaned after every use. Be sure and check that no grounds have collected on any part of the equipment and there is no build-up of coffee oil to pollute future pots.

Once your machine is spic and span, they say that to brew a good cup of coffee you should then check your water. Softened, distilled or chlorinated water is not good. Filtered or bottled water is good if you’re not sure of the quality of your tap water.

The coffee grounds themselves should be purchased freshly roasted and used as soon as possible for a superb cup of coffee. (Wow. I’ll bet there’s a lot of mediocre coffee being drunk in this country!) Our grounds are freshly frozen and then ground with a blade grinder. That, however, according to the experts is a no-no. A burr grinder at the grocery store is better. Or so they say …

 Now, according to the experts, you should use 1-2 tablespoons of coffee grounds for every six ounces of water to brew the coffee. That’s a bit strong for me. In fact, that’s really strong for me so I use way less grounds and tap water and it comes out fine for my taste.

Finally, you need to drink your coffee as soon as it is brewed. True coffee aficionados will tell you that brewed coffee begins to lose it taste moments after brewing. They say you should only brew what you’re going to drink and never, ever, ever reheat it.

Well, I’ve sipped many re-heated cups of coffee in my lifetime and while I prefer fresh brewed, it’s a shame to throw away relatively fresh expensive coffee. At one time we had a contraption that made coffee syrup that you refrigerated. When you were ready for a cup you added water and microwaved your brew. We didn’t care for that.

Now, there’s lots more to know about brewing coffee but we’re going to move on to ways to use those humble coffee filters. Yep. Those cute little cups (or cones) that you can buy for practically nothing can be use for many things other that straining coffee beans. Check out the following ideas and then mix up a batch of INSTANT coffee flavored brownies to go with that brew.

Coffee filters make excellent covers for bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave.

Protect your dishes by separating your good china with a coffee filter between each dish.

Filter broken cork from wine.  If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.

Protect your cast-iron skillets.  Place a coffee filter in each 
skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust during storage.

Recycle frying oil.  After frying, strain oil through a
sieve lined with a coffee filter.

Weigh chopped foods by placing ingredients in a
coffee filter on a kitchen scale.

Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods. Use them to hold tacos!

 Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot.  Line a planter or 
pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.

Put a few filters on a plate to soak up the grease from your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc.
Keep in the bathroom.  They make great "razor nick fixers."
Use filters to strain soup stock or to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.
Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car.
Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.
Save on having extra bowls to wash and use filters to hold dry ingredients  (flour, sugar, etc) for baking projects.
Use filters to sprout seeds.  Simply dampen the coffee filter,
Place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a plastic baggie until they sprout.
Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers. Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters between pages of your phone book.
Use as a disposable "snack bowl" for popcorn, chips, etc.

And finally, my favorite idea: use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.

Now, that you’re all organized, try out the recipe of the day. Enjoy!


1-1/2  cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2  cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2-1/2  tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs (or 3 small)
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2-cup semisweet chocolate morsels
Vegetable cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine sugar, margarine, and coffee granules in a small saucepan. Place over low heat; cook for 4 minutes or until margarine melts and the mixture is smooth, stirring frequently.

Combine sugar mixture, vanilla, egg whites, and egg; beat at low speed of a mixer until smooth.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture, beating well. Stir in chocolate morsels. Spread batter into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 18 minutes; let cool in pan. Serves 12 or more.

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, January 1, 2011

Snow for Christmas

12/22/10 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Dear Readers,
Today we continue my tradition of featuring an old-fashioned, feel-good holiday story in this space during Christmas week. Many readers have told me that they read these stories to their children or grandchildren and look forward to them as a refreshing change during the hubbub of the season.

This year’s story comes courtesy of an old edition of “ideals” magazine that I found amongst my mother’s things after she passed away. “Ideals” (spelled with a lower case ‘I’), is no longer in print but during the 1950s — 1980s, it was welcomed into millions of homes across the USA.

Each season and holiday was honored with its own special issue of the magazine. The copy I have is nearly 40 years old. A Christmas issue, it is overflowing with full-color photographs and drawings of apple-cheeked children that reflect a kind, gentle, country lifestyle that is still appealing today.

I can remember my mother and grandmother leafing through the thick pages for decorating ideas and inspiration for the current season. All of the important qualities of life that we talk about today were emphasized on the pages of “ideals.” The innocence of children, the importance of home, respect for our country and our elders were modeled in every issue.

This Christmas issue is a real showcase of poems and readings and a bit of history about our Christmas traditions. It features “The story of Santa,” many snowy scenes, a true story of the glass blowers of Nurenberg, Germany and an excerpt from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

This year’s story is about a selfless little deer who made one special request to Santa. She and the other animals of the forest were dreaming of snow but there was none. But unlike little children who go to bed on Christmas Eve dreaming and hoping for a white Christmas, the animals decided to do something about it.

I trust that this story will warm your heart first with the joy of Jesus who is the heart of Christmas and then the magic of Santa Claus delivering not only snow but also gifts for the spirit of mankind.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Snow for Christmas
Lynn Stetler Schwanke

Long ago, not far from here, there lived a worried little deer. “It’s almost Christmastime,” she said, “and there’s no snow for Santa’s sled. How will he bring gifts and cheer to all my forest friends this year?”

The others were amazed and stunned. This predicament could spoil their fun. There had to be a way, they thought, to end this winter’s great snow drought.

So each one pledged to find a way to make it snow for Santa’s sleigh. A sassy squirrel was first in line; “You’ll soon see snow, I’ll do just fine.” She scampered up the tallest tree and threw pinecones to jar flakes free. But nothing fell; no snow came down. And all the animals sat and frowned.

The Grizzly Bear snarled, “I’ll get snow. After all, I’m king, you know.” He growled and made the forest shake but could not budge a single flake.

A proud young hawk said, “Hey, I’ll try. I’ll beat my wings against the sky.” So up he flew with a swooshing sound but only feathers hit the ground.

A spindly spider had a way to coax the snow to fall that day. “I’ll spin webs to catch each flake so they won’t hit the ground and break.” But even that was not enough to bring the frosty, fluffy stuff.

A coyote with a pointed nose was certain he could bring the snows. “This,” he yipped, “will be no muss, my howls create a lot of fuss.” Though he caused sheep to cry and bleat, the clouds would not give up their sleet.

A bunny child stepped up to say, “I’ll get the snow to fall today. I’ll gather strength and hop up high and let my sharp ears pierce the sky.” And jump he did, way out of sight but nothing made the forest white.

A fishy in a nearby brook said, “You need snow, well, take a look. I’ll splash some water in the air and northern winds that blow up there will freeze each drop and when it fall we’ll have a million snowy balls!” The fish swam hard and flapped her tail and really stirred up quite a gale. But it didn’t snow (to all’s regret); the only thing they got was wet.

“Let’s all try,” a raccoon quipped “and we will get this problem whipped. Now, everybody, here we go. We’ll make those clouds give us some snow!” They screeched and stomped and gave a shout but not one single drop fell out.

“Well, that’s it, we’ve done it all. I guess the snow will never fall. Santa Claus will go on by. His sled can’t land on ground that’s dry.” And all the creatures one by one wandered home — their faces glum.

The little deer with sad, soft eyes lifted her face and searched the skies. “Dear Santa Claus, I know it’s late but I have a wish that cannot wait. Please send the snow ahead of you so we can have a Christmas, too. It’s the only present I request. It’s for my friends — please do your best.”

And while the creatures all were dozing, a million flakes — like diamonds frozen — fell to earth and lingered there, a Christmas gift for all to share. Santa brought a thousand joys and stuffed caves and nests with fruits and toys. The day was filled with all that’s good — peace and love and brotherhood.

Since then each creature great and small, spreads Christmas joy to one and all. And if strangers ask, “How’d it begin?” they tell the story once again … about that time so long ago, the day they tried to make it snow.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.
You can read her weekly columns in the Cottage Grove, OR Sentinel.