Saturday, January 28, 2006

In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

By: L.A. Kohl
January 5, 2006
(published in the Wed., Jan. 25, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")

I think I can say that I like animals as much as the next person. I doubt if I can classify myself as a bona fide “animal lover” – although I used to be. As a child, I had about every kind of pet that I could find, or afford. In other words, ones that cost little or nothing. I had some of the normal things: cats, dogs, a hamster; and then some of the not so normal things: ants, baby crawdads and a turtle.

Nowadays, I’d classify myself as more of an “animal tolerater." I tolerate the cockatiel, hamster, cats, and miniature horses. I do really like our dog, and would hate to lose him – but all the rest of the menagerie I just co-exist with because my children want them.

What I can not explain is somehow along the way from “animal lover” to “animal tolerater”...I became an accidental animal murderer.

Ooo – sounds terrible, doesn’t it? I never intentionally set out to kill anything. Unfortunately, the animals just seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Luckily for the animal kingdom, it’s only happened a few times.

One of the first accidental annihilations happened shortly after we moved to our small acreage north of Harrisburg. I was really getting into the “natural” way of landscaping and gardening. I liked to transplant things from our woods or creek bottom up to the yard. This particular time I was digging up a gooseberry bush (crazy, I know.) I pounced on my spade a couple of times, and then pried up a little in the loosened area. That’s when I saw it...a snake. Not just any snake – I was sure it was poisonous. I have never again run so quickly up the hill towards our house. Nate went to investigate, and sure enough, it was a copperhead, and sure enough, I had unwittingly spliced it into a couple of different pieces. Believe you me; I felt no remorse over that one.

The next strange incident was a road-kill accident. I know – most people have mistakenly killed some animal that darted out in front of them...usually a dog, cat, deer, or rodent. Not me. I collided with a mallard duck. It came flying at me from out of nowhere. (It occurred to me a few moments later that it may have been a Kamikaze duck.) I know lots of hunters spend many a cold, damp hour sitting in duck blinds, waiting patiently to find an illusive duck. For me, it took a split second and “thunk” - I had my duck without even trying.

The last one was the strangest of all. A few years ago I was helping my husband survey a couple of farm fields that a developer wanted to turn into a subdivision. A wide ditch lay between the two fields... rather swampy, and overgrown with grass and weeds. It was too wide for me to jump, but I jumped as far as I could, because I’m not very brave when it comes to strolling through dense, swampy areas. When my foot came down, a terrible noise burst forth from beneath me. I scrambled the rest of the way out of the ditch, then turned around to catch a glimpse of a bunny rabbit squealing (I didn’t know they did that) and convulsing in the weeds – then everything went quiet. Ah man, I couldn’t believe it. Only I could manage to jump a ditch and land squarely on top of the only bunny probably within several hundred yards. When we told the kids about it later, one of them said, “MOM! You killed a cute little rabbit???”
Nate’s reply was, “Well, either that, or he’s now a quadriplegic, riding around in his little bunny wheelchair.”

All I know is, to this day I can’t stick a spade in the ground or hop a ditch without hesitating just a little bit; wondering what my next victim may be.

Warm Up with a cup of Tea

By L.A. Kohl
January 3, 2006

(published in the Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")
No, this isn’t a “recipe” column, but with nine people around the house on a daily basis, the culinary arts do consume much of my time. Thus, they occasionally creep into my front porch musings.
I don’t know about everyone else, but my family loves a cup of something hot to sip on a cold wintry day. Coffee and hot chocolate are typical stand-bys, but we also enjoy some different takes on the common cup of tea that you might like to try.

First is my grandma’s spiced tea mix. Every fall, when the first cold weather starts chilling our bones, the kids start asking when I’m going to make them some spiced tea. It’s a fairly common recipe that some of you may know as “Russian Tea." Just mix together 2 cups of orange breakfast drink mix, 1 cup of instant tea, ½ cup of lemonade mix, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. each of ground cloves and ginger, and that’s it. You can also add a cup of sugar if you have a sweet tooth, but I’ve always thought the lemonade and orange drink mixes give it just the right amount of sweetness. Heat up a mug of hot water and stir in two or three tablespoons of the mix. Mmmm, the aroma alone will warm your senses!

The next one is a recipe I stumbled across in an old recipe book. It’s called “Near Coggon Spiced Tea," but I have modified it to suit our tastes. Start by bringing 2 quarts of water to boil in a stock pot. When it reaches the boiling point, add 6 sticks of cinnamon (3”-4” long), and the following spices tied up in a coffee filter: 2 tsp. whole cloves, 1 tsp. ground ginger and 1 tsp. ground allspice. Allow this to boil for ten minutes, then stir in twelve tea bags, 2 c. sugar, ½ (12 oz) can of orange juice, 1 (12 oz) can of grape juice, ¼ c. lemon juice, and 4 more quarts of water. Return to a slow boil, and boil gently for at least ten minutes, then remove tea bags and spice bag. This has a wonderful aroma as well, and can serve a large crowd as it makes over two gallons.

I’ve saved our most memorable tea recipe for last – chai. I learned how to make it when our family spent a couple months in India during the winter of 2001. It was a daily experience while we were there, but now it is just an occasional treat. The chai we were taught to make in India has little resemblance to the chai mixes you can now purchase at the grocery store. Maybe it’s kind of like the difference between a cappuccino mix from the store, and a cappuccino you buy in your local coffee shop. Anyway, traditional chai is more or less just hot, sweet tea with lots of milk. Different spices are often added, the most common being black pepper. I know it sounds weird – but give this recipe a try sometime and see what you think.

Boil 5 cups of water, then add 6 tea bags and ¼ to ½ tsp. of ground black pepper (we like the ½ tsp. amount, but you may want to start with the ¼ tsp. amount.) Reduce heat and simmer this mixture for about 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, and stir in ½ c. sugar and 3 cups of whole milk (or 2 cups of cream). Reheat this mixture. At this point, you can strain out the black pepper and serve – or, just dip out your cup of chai and be careful not to take the last swallow! If the black pepper variety of chai is not to your liking, then you can try substituting spices like cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom.

Whether you are a committed tea drinker or not, I would highly recommend any of these to help chase away a bad case of wintry cabin fever.