NEW RICHLAND-HARTLAND-ELLENDALE-GENEVA AREA

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In my thoughts today, probably because we are now officially in the season of Christmas, is the privilege to visit any number of care centers and assisted living facilities that are not only in my heart but are also thought provoking. Hopefully I can make the time to double my efforts to visit others during this holiday season.

It comes to mind that I have observed very good things about many of these facilities but have also observed some little things can and do make big differences. Full care and assisting living centers are understandably different, but my thoughts today center around the afternoon coffee — an event I feel is more important for socialization than food.

My thoughts keep coming back to the fantastic way a facility in Waseca serves their dinners so beautifully attractive it would put elegant restaurants to shame. What a wonderful way to invite the residents to come out of their rooms and enjoy their meals. But I guess I was talking about afternoon coffee, wasn't I?

At one of the assisted living units in Owatonna, I have seen ever so many come out at coffee time because there is such a variety of items to choose from. Coffee, tea, cocoa, juice or just refreshing ice water and cookies are also as varied, with healthy choices. Fruit cups, fresh fruit, tiny round sandwiches and roll ups, various cookies including oatmeal raisin, a favorite. There are always leftover bars and desserts from meals too. I guess the thought is, coffee time doesn't have to be something with sugar and is as varied as a day. Impressive. The best part about coffee time is that people come out and enjoy conversation with their friends.

I also thought about the sweetener packets of sugar and substitutes. Substitutes often scare me because of the things I have read that say they have side effects and can contribute to sweet desires or problems with insulin. There are natural sweeteners that do not have that effect — like Truvia or Stevia — no more expensive but safer and also usable for cooking and baking. Using slightly less sugar in baking and cooking, or substituting applesauce for some of the shortening or oils, allows the use of things like apples and pumpkin, making attractive tasty treats while incorporating fruits or vegetables in the diet.

Fresh vegetables are always good, especially when combined with a low-calorie dip. Plain yogurt with chopped veggies for natural color and flavor is always enjoyable. Fresh vegetables and fruits can be a part of the daily food balance and tasty as smoothies, juice or munchies. Chop, if need be, to make them easier to chew or swallow.

I realize there are regulations, budgets and time elements to consider, but the health and welfare of those we value is the prime reason for varied, special afternoon breaks.

Coffee time doesn't have to be coffee or sweets. The important thing is socialization. Getting people out of their rooms is important because there is more to life if you share it with others.

Healthy cookies or bars are a consideration for those who have problems handling some foods because of handicaps and sight abilities. 

Recently I read about a "Double-the-Oat Oatmeal Cookie.” I haven't tried it yet, but I will. I may also try some variations. Here’s the recipe:

Mix two eggs with 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 1 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, divided, 1 1/3 cups dried cherries and a generous cup of pecan halves, coarsely chopped (you may substitute 1 1/2 cups of dark chocolate chips and 1 cup of chopped walnuts for the dried cherries and pecans).

Whisk the eggs and vanilla until frothy. Add sugars and oil. Mix well until blended and creamy in appearance.

In a separate bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients, except the oatmeal. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar and egg mixture. Mix in two cups of the oats and mix well. Then add the cherries and pecans, and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of oats. Mix well. The batter will be stiff.

Drop the cookie dough on cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Bake at 350 for about 14-15 minutes until brown but still soft.

Here's a second "whatever comes to mind." Maybe it was the red, white and blue Christmas trees at Whispering Oak or the thought that too much of the things we are apt to buy this holiday season are made in a foreign country, often China, when it could and should be made here in the good old USA!

We are in the biggest shopping season of the year, and I would like to think that just as we consider whether to use high fructose items from our food resources, it is equally important we read labels when it comes to the merchandise and gifts we buy.

There are hundreds of American makers, artisans and small businesses who stand out and serve as inspiration for others. We should be so grateful and mindful of people here whose creativity and craftsmanship should not only be prized but encouraged to flourish. By not buying foreign merchandise, we let them know we are buying quality U.S. products with American money.

Sometimes, American-made products are not more expensive and are of better quality. We should be united in our mission to support American makers and workers.

It would, and should, make a big difference in keeping jobs right here in America.

Some of our Star Eagle readers have commented they like to read about events such as family and school reunions, birthdays and anniversaries, and birth and wedding announcements. In order to read about these important things we need our faithful readers to pass along the information to us. 

If you have birthdays and anniversaries you would like include, or news to share please contact me via e-mail, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; by postal mail, P.O. Box 192, Geneva, MN 56035 or telephone, 507-256-4405.

This week’s birthdays and anniversaries:

• Thursday, December 5th: Finnegan Fladger, Bodie Jaxon Newgard, Phyllis Hanson, Rick Aaseth, Rosalyn Johnson, Kathy Lee, Christian Conroy, Shannon Jensen, Kelsey Loverink, Ron Farner, Larry & Mary Richards

•  Friday, December 6th: Sharon Johnson, Rodger Hill, Katie Marlin, Tony Jackovitch, John Lerum, John Kaplan, Sue Klemmensen, Chris & Marie Wallace, Emily & Jeffrey O'Brien

•  Saturday, December 7th: Katie Olson, Tracy Holland, Sam Peterson, Angela Hensrud, Wanda Schwartz, Helen Schmidt, Kara & Eric Grant, Ron & Theresa Langlie, Dawn & Eric Degan

• Sunday, December 8th: Kathy Glynn, Teri McDonald, Jeff Schei, Tracy Haddy, James Olsen, Mike Flugum, Meghan Baumann

•  Monday, December 9th: Eva Buendorf, 2012; Carrisa Christensen, Paitan Janis Glynn, Al Paulson, Robert Robertson, Rusty Besco, Mark Ribbe, Tony Phillips, Courtney Thompson, Brian Strand, Chuck & Cynthia Crabtree, Steve & Terri Engel

• Tuesday, December 10th: Cody Dobberstein, Steve Lee, Valarie Otterson, Karla Osmundson, Art DeNeui, Philip Olsen, Scott & Melonie Crabtree

• Wednesday, December 11th: Jane Nordhorn Allen, Justin Hove, Geoffrey Ramaker, Marty Shultz, Rick Johnson, Janice Paulsen, Beth Scripture Klucksen, Jake Thompson, Theresa Van Ravenhorst, Larry & Emily Otto

• Thursday, December 12th: Torie Richards, Jean Groth, Addison Gayle Lyman, Bernard Falksen, Allen Paulson, Matthew Butler, Barbara Lageson, Judith Johnson Tetzloff, Kim Seath, Christopher Nelson, Mark & Cheryl Johnson

• Friday, December 13th: Deb Bunn, Dan Carroll, Jake Pence, Eleanor Koster, Spencer Wayne, Maks Robert Edward Hanson, Michael Kelly, Mike & Michelle Peterson, Candy & Darin Baker

• Saturday, December 14th: Makenna Marie Smith, Alexander Jayce Quimby, Keith Bengston, Randy Lehmberg, Elizabeth Falksen Brockoff, Richard Conroy, Wayne Reese, Tina VanRiper, Catherine Lageson, Jim Ladlie, Rich Krikava, Peggy Radjenovich

May you find joy and pleasure all around you on your special day.


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