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      Finding a Religion to Abide By

      by Dwayne Eutsey

      For various reasons, I’ve been missing-in-action from this column for a while.

      In addition to my full-time work, there’s the part-time job I took on a year or so ago; there’s the fact that we have a house full of adolescent kids now (which may help you understand why I have the part-time gig); and there’s that new religion I’ve been helping to found.

      Yes, you read that correctly.

      In what spare time I have, I’ve been spreading the good word of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude (or Dudeism), the world’s slowest-growing religion, to the masses. www.dudeism.com

      Inspired by the Coen Brothers’ film classic The Big Lebowski, Dudeism follows the laid-back path revealed by the movie’s main character, called the Dude (hilariously played by Jeff Brides), who exemplifies for all us stressed out sinners just how take it easy, man, in a world gone crazy with stress.

      Or as Dudeism’s founder Oliver Benjamin (aka the Dudely Lama) describes it:

      The idea is this: Life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it. Just take it easy, man. Stop worrying so much whether you’ll make it into the finals. Kick back with some friends and some oat soda and whether you roll strikes or gutters, do your best to be true to yourself and others – that is to say, abide.

      Dudeism is in part a joke, but it’s a joke with a serious undercurrent drawn from the ancient traditions of holy fools and trickster gods with a lot of self-deprecating Taoism, humanism, and Kahlua tossed in.

      It’s Time to Can Soup and Chili

      by J.R. Coffey

      It is hard to believe another canning season will soon be over.  This is the best time of year to can soups to have for the Winter ahead.  Hunters will soon be going out and I have included directions on how to can beef or venison.  All of these make for quick meals.  Just heat and serve.  You also do not have to worry if the power goes off and losing your food.  I will give you some general information for all of the recipes that will follow:

      General Directions for Soups

      1). I prefer to make my broth or stock the day before.  This allows you to skim off the excess fat and discard it or use it for soap.  Some fat should be left in, but too much will prevent jars from sealing.

      2). Prepare all vegetables just as you would to cook.  Peel and chop or dice every vegetables.  String and cut or break green beans, shell limas or peas, cut corn off of cob etc.  Some of this can be done the day before and items refrigerated to finish the next day.  Soup spoils easily so work with help or in amounts you can do quickly.

      3). Leave 1” headspace in all jars.  Clean jar rims and seal.  Failure to clean jar rims can result in seal failure.

      Back to School Brings Challenges, Blessings and Gratitude!

      by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

      Every mom has the picture of her baby's first day of school. Proud and nervous he stands in his shiny new clothes with his shiny new backpack. Some pictures tell a slightly different story. Here's MY picture of my daughters' first day of school ever!

      No new clothes or backpacks, they wouldn't let me drive them to school but shrugged off my hugs and trudged up the country lane to their bus stop. My big girls!! 

      Ok, they ARE in Junior High. But it was STILL their FIRST day of school - ever. We've always homeschooled - and liked the lifestyle and the flexibility it afforded us.  We homeschooled for many reasons, including the ability to tailor the educational experience to the child. Well, and the fact that I would have made a HORRIBLE public-school parent. 

      Me: "Why are you teaching fractions to a child who can't yet add?"

            "Why did you give her an "A" on this paper? She's mixed up their/there and has no subject-verb agreement on that last sentence."

             "No, we're not going to cancel our plans this weekend so she can draw a picture of a turkey. That's not a good use of her time."

      Trust me - the teachers would have put out a contract on me in no time. I would have seriously flunked out. 

      So....why are 2/3 of my kids now attending school? They wanted to go. One was more interested than the other, but after a tour and some serious grilling of the assistant principal they both decided to try the school adventure. 

      So far - they like it! I'm even enjoying it. When one of them was writing a composition and couldn't whine and complain to me to get out of it - I was downright giddy. (ok - she was happy about that, too. Apparently I'm WAY too critical of her writing. Whatever.)

      Make Your Life a ROCKIN' Reality Show!

      by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

      We all know fear - and change - is part of life. Yada yada yada.  It’s easy to say the words – but it’s harder to walk the walk.  Doing something new is terrifying! Your heart rate increases, you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and wonder if you’re doing the right thing. It’s hard to think of anything else, since your entire body goes into that “fight or flight” scenario – preparing for action.

      But we need this shake-up, this rush of adrenaline, this pure terror.  Without it, we stagnate – lose interest in moving forward – and resign ourselves to watching yet another reality tv show – watching others risk all without ever leaving the safety of our easy chair.

      Why else would reality shows be so overwhelmingly popular? All the drama without ever having to risk anything, ourselves. 

      But let’s face it, folks – Our lives ARE a reality show!  Every day we face choices that will determine what direction our lives will take.  We even have an audience watching our performance – our family, friends, even neighbors.  Our very own fan club, cheering us along!

      …so I thought the GPS was supposed to keep me from wandering around in circles?

      by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

      I like maps.  I like planning my route, calculating the best routes, rest stops and note worthy attractions.  I like leaving a congested highway and making my way on back roads, with only the most basic of maps to keep me heading in the chosen direction.  I’m famous for my “shortcuts” – and most of them involve dirt roads.  Reading maps has given me an innate sense of direction (note: unless I’m in DC, then all bets are off).  I can be on a dirt road surrounded by cornfields – and simply “know” which direction leads to home. 

      As a map connoisseur, I rejected the GPS with the conviction a Coke Classic lover showed for New Coke.  I snickered over stories of hapless individuals driving into walls or off of bridges while following their electronic masters.  Really? A little common sense, please! You see? This is what happens when we rely on electronics instead of our brains, people!

      Pride goeth before a fall. And mine fell when I landed a training contract that required me to drive all around two states, making dozens of stops along the way.  I started with my maps, of course. It took HOURS  to plot my route.  I eventually succumbed and bought a highly rated GPS – and I was on my way!

      I took to my new GPS toy the way a dieter takes to dessert buffet.  It was so easy! All I had to do was follow Lola’s (yup, Lola!) rather annoying insistent vocal commands – and I magically arrived at my desired destination! So easy!  I’ll admit to feeling frustrated by her determination to keep me on the major intersections – I much prefer short cuts and back roads.  And so, I would deliberately turn OFF Lola’s preferred path – and when she got too vocal in her objections – I shut her off.  I think everyone should come with an OFF button – don’t you?

      Plumbers, Mechanics and More. Oh Joy.

      It's been one of those weeks. Everything in my life is making odd noises: the minivan, the pump, the children. (ok, the children's noises may have been due to the sheer number of kids involved.) Nonetheless, having to deal with a plumber AND a mechanic in the same day left me feeling quite sorry for myself (and my wallet).

      Because we believe in small businesses we tend to call the little guys: the solo plumber, the small repair shop, etc. They're not always as effecient as larger organizations - and I've spent a bit of time tracking down the mechanic, trying to get an estimate for the work. (because if it turns out to be triple what I'm expecting, I'm going to need to get some xanax from my doctor. It's best to be prepared!)

      Yup, I've worried about the cost of all this manual labor. Plus parts. Did you know the silly 20 gallon pump tank costs $158 from a plumbing supply house? It's an empty tank, for crying out loud! {sigh}

      HEAT: The Unexpected Dangers

      by Cyndi Paxton Johnson
      As the mercury rises and we brace ourselves for yet ANOTHER stretch of nasty weather - it's time to ask ourselves..."Was all that hairspray of the 60's and 70's REALLY worth it???" 

      We all know the standard dangers of extreme heat - heat stroke, heart attacks, etc. (yada yada yada) - but for me, the dangers of heat are MUCH more, well, dangerous!

      1. CRANKINESS - both my own - and other peoples'. Let's face it- if you really want to see my head explode this is a great time to push my buttons. (and I'd prefer to be cranky ALONE - so the rest of you crank-heads go bother someone else.)

      2. Reduced work performance.  Now is NOT a good time to need the services of those requiring fine motor skills. Avoid neurosurgery, piano concerts and hairdressers. (trust me on this last one - OIY!!!)

      In a Cucumber Pickle

      By James R. Coffey

      I hope everyone had a good Winter and Spring season.  It is hard to believe another canning season has arrived.  It seems like everyone at some time has a glut of cucumbers and the recipes that follow are some of my favorite ways to preserve them.

      Bread and Butter Pickle

      This is a recipe I have won a Blue Ribbon on at Cecil County Fair.

      3 pounds medium size cucumbers

      2 large white onions, sliced
      ½ large red pepper, washed, seeded and choppe
      2 T. canning salt
      1 ¼ C. cider vinegar
      1 ¼ C. sugar
      1 ½ t. mustard seed
      1 t. turmeric
      1/8 t. ground cloves

      Wash cucumbers and cut off and discard a thin slice from each end.  Slice cucumbers as thin as possible, either by hand or use a food processor.  Layer cucumbers, onions, peppers and salt in a bowl.  Let stand for 1 hour.  Drain vegetables and rinse in cold water.  Combine vinegar, sugar and spices in large kettle and bring to a boil.  Add vegetables and heat, but do not boil.  Remove from heat.  Pack pickles into clean jars, leaving ½ “ headspace.  Wipe jar rims.  Seal.Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.Makes 4 pts.

      …and so they dragged me, kicking and screaming, into the digital age

      by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

      I used to be cool. Really! I was active on WOW (the pre-AOL chat room) before most folks ever heard of the internet.  I was cutting edge – for a non-techie. I even had a column in the now defunct online  Cecil County Magazine.  And, no thanks to my now husband, I had a computer WITH a hard drive!  (my first computer had only two floppies because – and I quote my wonderful techie husband – “No one would ever need an entire 20mb of space!” In his defense – it was a LONG time ago!)

      And yet, despite my advanced beginnings – I am now a technological wash-out.  I own NO Apple products.  I FINALLY got a GPS last Christmas –and like it. And, most importantly from a Book Slut point of view – I FINALLY have a Kindle.

      We have ONE Kindle in our household – and we’re constantly fighting over it.  Because of this – there’s an eclectic combination of digital books for our perusing pleasure.  I’ve finally found some Facebook folks that keep me current on FREE and low-cost ebooks:  BookGorilla, Pixel of Ink, Readers of Kindle Books, etc – and I’m stocking up

      Additionally, there are plenty of business books that we’re perusing – which keep us motivated and growing! I LOVE taking ONE of my entire libraries with me wherever I go – it makes waiting MUCH less frustrating! (still love the thousands of books in our home – but digital sure weighs less!)


      I don’t know how we survived without our Kindle for so long – something about loving the feel of a real book in my hands.  You get over it. Trust me. 

      Maybe one day I’ll have an i-pod! 

      Endangered Childhood: Growing Up Shouldn't be Dangerous!

      by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

      I can't turn around without finding yet another example of endangered childhood - online or in my own community. It's reaching epidemic proportions - and I'm terrified of what will become of these once innocent children. I've been insulated by the homeschooling community and the parenting blogs that were my lifeline - though they made me feel like a bad mom for not buying natural peanut butter and not getting my brood to eat sprouts. But my gang's finishing their first year in public school (and loving it), and I've gotten to know a lot of kids who have more to deal with than JIF peanut butter. 

      There's the teenage boy who was kept confined in his sparse bedroom and allowed to do nothing outside of watching his spoiled little sister. Or the sisters who are tossed between homes like a volleyball, occasionally landing back with their abusive mother. Or the girl who witnessed a fatal shooting in her home - by her father. 

      Childhood shouldn't be this traumatic.

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