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by Barb Cline

Now is the Time to Apply for a New Passport or Renew

Yes, the COVID-19 global pandemic has undoubtedly turned the world of international travel upside down in 2020. However, U.S. State Department officials say now is a good time for Americans to renew an expired passport or apply for a new one. Currently, it takes about 10-12 weeks to process a passport, from the time of application to delivery in the mail—that’s up from the 6-8 weeks it typically took pre-COVID. The centers where passport processors work have been opening gradually, and applications are being handled in the order they arrive.

It’s never too early to start your worldly travel preparation. To begin the passport process, here are some tips. For those who don’t already have a passport, find your birth certificate and driver’s license or state-issued identification. For those who already have a passport, check the expiration date on your passport. If family members, friends, or companions will be traveling with you, check their passport status as well.

If it turns out any of your passports expire in 2021, apply for a renewal now. Passports are good for ten years (except children; see below), and you will save money and stress by not waiting until the last minute. It costs $110 to renew a passport when you use the routine service. However, if you need to use the expedited service, you will pay an additional $60 per application.

Important Passport Considerations

You can renew your passport by mail without going in-person to a processing center if you can answer YES to these five questions:

You have your passport in your possession to include with your application?

It is undamaged other than normal wear and tear?

Was it issued when you were age 16 or older?

Was it issued within the last 15 years?

Was it issued in your current name, or you can document any name change?

In our local area, you can process passports in person at the Thurmont, Woodsboro, or Smithsburg United States Post Office locations.

Parents may not realize, or they may forget, that their child’s passport (for those under age 16) is valid for only five years, unlike the ten years for adult passports.

Keep in mind that many countries require your U.S. passport to be valid at least six months past your dates of travel. If it is less than that, you could be denied boarding your outbound flight or even turned around at customs. How tragic would that be!

Some countries have also instituted blank-page minimums for entry (such as two-four pages), so you need to make sure your passport has adequate blank pages for the entry or exit stamps.

Starting in 2016, it is no longer possible to pay for the insertion of additional visa pages into your current U.S. passport. Now, if you fill up all your pages, you will need to get a whole new passport—even if it’s well in advance of the expiration date. Several years ago, they began issuing passports with just 28 pages as the standard, down from the prior 52 pages. Luckily, it’s free to request a 52-page passport; just check the “Large Book” box on the application form

Stories of What It’s Like Returning Home After 25 Years

by dave ammenheuser

A year ago, in the January issue of The Catoctin Banner, Blair Garrett wrote a nice profile of me and of how my journalism career took me from Thurmont to across the world’s sports stage.

I was flattered. Thurmont will always be my home. I was proud that my local newspaper cared enough to write about my career.

My mother was thrilled. My father’s friends got him extra copies. My father-in-law, who lived in Delaware, asked for a copy, too. I also coordinated a 40-year reunion of Catoctin High School basketball friends and teammates, while I started planning to take my USA TODAY sports staff to Japan for the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.

The rest of 2020 wasn’t so great.

COVID-19 impacted the world and our family. There was the difficult day in March when I had 24 hours to get my son out of Ecuador, where he was spending a college semester studying abroad. It was a crazy day. Luckily, he got on the final American plane out before the country closed its airport because of the pandemic. 

But that was only the start of a terrible year. A nasty tornado ripped through the Tennessee town (Mt. Juliet) where we lived. Our home was spared, but hundreds of neighbors lost their homes. Two schools were destroyed. The community remains in recovery mode.

We also learned that my father-in-law, who was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, also had melanoma on his brain. The double-whammy cut his life short. He died in July.

My own parents, who have lived near Creagerstown for 50 years, also battled health issues. My father, John, died in September when his heart finally gave out.

Cancer struck my mother, Liz. First, the cancer was located in her breasts, then in her spine. Combine that with dementia, and you have a very unfair battle for a wonderful person in her senior years. She died a few days before Christmas.

I finally decided that it was all too much to handle from afar. Thus, two months ago, I returned home. My wife, Maura, and I sold our home near Nashville and moved back East.

I gave up my amazing career as a sports journalist to care for my father-in-law’s estate in Delaware and to care for my parents’ home in Thurmont and their estate.

It’s been almost 25 years since I left Frederick County. My journalism career took me to the Carolinas, Connecticut, California, and Nashville. Two years ago, I was named the sports director of the USA TODAY Network, overseeing more than 700 sports journalists across the nation.

All of those 700 are important to me. But my family and my mom’s needs were more important.

So, instead of working for a paycheck for USA TODAY in 2021, I’ve volunteered to write a free monthly column for Deb Abraham Spalding and The Catoctin Banner this year. I’ll write about what it is like to return home after being away for 25 years. I’ll recount stories of growing up in Creagerstown and of matriculating through the local school system. I’ll tell what it was like being an Eagle Scout in this community and about being the worst baseball player in the history of the Thurmont Little League.

Without a doubt, 2020 simply stunk for all of us. I’m looking forward to 2021 and hopefully seeing many friends I have not seen in a few decades.

Liz and John Ammenheuser visiting Bethany Beach in 2018.

The Year is…1808

by James Rada, Jr.

The Mount Seminary Is the “Cradle of Bishops”

From a brick cottage in rural Maryland grew an institution that has educated dozens of young men who became Catholic bishops and archbishops.

Mount St. Mary’s College began in 1808 when “the Society of St. Sulpice in Baltimore closed its preparatory seminary in Pennsylvania and transferred the seminarians to Emmitsburg,” according to the Mount St. Mary’s website.

The first classes were held in the Chinquapin Cottage. The first class was made up of 39 resident students and 7 or 8 day students. Among them were John Lilly of Conewago, James Clements of Littlestown, Rev. John Hickey of Frederick, and Dr. James A. Shorb, according to The Emmitsburg Chronicle.

“Father Dubois enlarged the scope of the institution and established classes of philosophy and theology, so as to retain his assistant teachers as long as possible; this finally led to the organization of the College and Seminary on a basis of entire independence, to be conducted by an association of priests under the jurisdiction and protection of the Archbishop of Baltimore,” James Helman wrote in History of Emmitsburg, Maryland.

The college’s and seminary’s reputations grew over the years. The Mount Seminary can boast 52 episcopal alumni, including John Hughes (Seminary of 1826), first Archbishop of New York; his Eminence John Cardinal McCloskey (Seminary of 1831), also Archbishop of New York and first native-born American cardinal; Most Rev. William B. Friend (Seminary of 1959), Bishop of Shreveport; Most Rev. Harry J. Flynn (Seminary of 1960), Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis; Most Rev. William E. Lori (Seminary of 1977); Most Rev. Michael 0. Jackels (Seminary of 1981), Bishop of Wichita; and Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley (Seminary of 1983), Bishop of Salina.

At present, Mount seminary alumni total more than 2,600, approximately half of whom are alive and active in priestly ministry. Alumni have served as first bishops of 15 newly formed dioceses, and 32 U.S. dioceses have been led by at least one bishop from the Mount.

“Emmitsburg has turned out some of the most notable American Jesuits. Father Early, my predecessor in the presidency of Georgetown, was a Mountaineer. In our needs, we naturally turn to this college. …There is an axiom that there is nothing in the effect that we may not find in the cause: now Mt. St. Mary’s is called the ‘Mother of Bishops,’ and the bishopric is a perfect state; hence, we find perfection in Mt. St. Mary’s that is the envy and the despair of all other colleges. …The secret of this is, I suppose, in the noble-hearted faculty which conserves and holds sacred the traditions of the saintly founders of the College,” Most Rev. John Farley, Archbishop of New York, said during the Mount’s centennial celebration in 1908.

Because of this, Mount St. Mary’s became known as the “cradle of bishops” and the “mother of bishops.”

“All the early universities of Europe were of priestly foundation, and almost all of our American ones had a similar origin. Religion and civilization go hand in hand. Now the priest is trained in the seminary. Hence, the seminary is the nursery of civilization and its preserver, for things are preserved by the same causes that give them origin. Mount St. Mary’s is the second in point of age of our seminaries, and has had very much to do with diffusing and preserving civilization as well as religion in the Republic. A dozen other colleges and seminaries owe their origin to her. Overbrook, her younger sister, acknowledges her precedence and wider influence, and pays her due honor on this her Centennial birthday anniversary,” Rev. Henry T. Drumgoole, LL.D., Rector of St. Charles’ Seminary, Overbrook, Pa., said of the Mount during the centennial celebration.

A version of this story appeared in The Emmitsburg Dispatch in 2008.

A Clean Slate

by Valerie Nusbaum

Happy New Year! I’m hoping that 2021 will be a great year for all of us. I know a lot of you were miserable in 2020. Many people we know suffered job losses, business closings, and illness.  Randy and I were fortunate that, so far, we haven’t been visited by COVID-19, but we know many people who weren’t so lucky. My hubby and I didn’t mind staying at home, although there were times when I know we got on each other’s nerves.

I trust that every one of you had as good a holiday season as possible given the circumstances.  With that being said, it’s time now to take a deep breath—which is difficult when wearing a mask—and figure out what the heck we can do to make this new year better than the last one.

We probably all ate way too much over the holidays. I’ve heard horror stories from friends about how they’ve gained a lot of weight due to quarantine-eating and depression. Maybe that’s where we start: an exercise plan and diet regime. I’ve never been a big fan of dieting, and I haven’t really needed to do it. If I notice that I’ve put on a pound or two, I give up desserts for a while or do a little extra on the treadmill. Or buy larger pants.

Since I know that losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolution, I had planned to tell you about the night Randy met Richard Simmons; however, that isn’t going to happen. In mentally writing that story, I realized that there’s no way I can tell it without incriminating myself and my friend, Roxann. It’s a shame, too, because it’s a great story. But since it involves a romantic dinner for two at The Quail Ridge Inn, a fit of hysteria, a spinning toilet, and a drive back to Frederick where something illegal occurred, I can’t go any further. I will tell you that I have a lovely photo of Randy being hugged by Richard Simmons, both of them grinning maniacally. And I can still hear Richard yelling, “the thingie, the thingie…” There was even a brief uninvited peek inside Richard’s limo, which only happened because one of us made a friend of the security guard.  Don’t judge me. This happened in 1991 or 1992, and “Sweating to the Oldies” with Richard Simmons was a huge hit. 

So, if I can’t write about diet and exercise, I think I’ll talk about snow since we’re heading into the timeframe where blizzards are possible. The hubby has a snow blower. It’s not the kind of snow blower one would normally use for a smaller property such as ours. Granted, we do have a lot of sidewalks, both surrounding our yard and leading from the front door to the back door to the basement door and crossing the patio, which needs to be plowed, too. Randy also likes to make a path leading back to his workshop, because if he doesn’t do that, I can see his footprints and I know he’s in there hiding from me. 

Anyway, the snow blower is an industrial-sized monster of a machine. Calling it a snow “blower” is such an understatement. I’d say it’s more of a snow “hurler.” If a person is ever unlucky enough to be walking down the public sidewalk in front of our house, he or she would be buried and frozen solid in a matter of seconds. Randy can accomplish this feat while standing at least 100 yards away from said person.  This snarling metal behemoth will also hurl rocks, dirt, and porch furniture, and it makes a growling sound much like an angry hippopotamus, or maybe I mean a rhino. It’s scary, that’s all I’m saying.

The snow blower used to belong to Randy’s dad, who bought it to plow out a driveway that was 150-yards long, and to manage my in-laws’ five-acre property. It was never intended for use in our cozy neighborhood. Consider yourselves warned. If the blizzard that Randy is praying for arrives, you’d do well to avoid us until the walks are cleared. It is kind of funny to watch, though, because the machine tends to get away from Randy. Once, he got his scarf caught in it. Winters are long, cold, and hard. I take my jollies where I can get them. 

Did I mention that I’m not allowed to use the snow blower?  Nope. That’s a job for a big, manly man. I really don’t have a problem with that because I much prefer staying inside where it’s warm and being in charge of the hot chocolate and cookies. Yet, I’m pretty sure Hubby keeps me away from his monster machine because of the incident with our riding lawn mower. Actually, there were several incidents, but maybe I’ll tell you about those in the spring.

Here’s wishing all of you good health, prosperity, and much happiness in the year to come.  And laughs—lots of laughs. Find them where you can, and if you can’t find them, call me. I’ll tell you the Richard Simmons story over the phone.

by James Rada, Jr.

January 1921, 100 Years Ago

John H. Bentzell Killed

Mr. John H. Bentzell, another prosperous and well known farmer of near Thurmont, came to his death Thursday morning, January 6th. Mr. Bentzell, along with his other work  operates a small chopping mill at his home, the same being run by a gasoline engine. On this occasion he was grinding corn. In the same building, a board partition dividng, he keeps his automobile. His son Earl was doing some work on the auto, and noticed the engine and chopper running not as it should. Going to the other side to see what was the trouble, he found his father lying on the ground in a pool of blood, dead.

It is presumed Mr. Bentzell got too close and a wheel on the engine caught his sweater and an under blouse and whirled him round, his head striking the truck axle. The backs of the sweater and blouse were torn out, his left arm broken in several places and his head more or less crushed.

                                          – Catoctin Clarion, January 13, 1921

Association Growing

A meeting of the Thurmont School Improvement Association was held in the High School Auditorium Monday evening of this week. At this meeting fourteen new names were added to the list of members, making a total of 108. Matters pertaining to the betterment of the school were brought up and discussed, the principal topic being drainage. While the school ground generally is dry, yet the portion used as a ball ground and for other sports serves as sort of a trough to carry off the surface water of the high ground on virtually three sides of the plat.

                                          – Catoctin Clarion, January 20, 1921

January 1946, 75 Years Ago

Emmitsburg Is Ready To Take Steps Forward

Emmitsburg is all ready to move ahead.

As soon as wartime restrictions are lifted the town is scheduled to make more progress within a short time than has been made during the last decade.

That at least is the impression of the borough received by a visitor who returned to Emmitsburg after the absence of several years.

The town has performed considerable “face lifting” during the war years and scheduled improvements will make it one of the most progressive communities in its area.

                                          – Gettysburg Times, January 10, 1946

Grange Formed At Thurmont

Another subordinate Grange will be added to Pomona’s growing list tonight when a Thurmont unit will be organized in the auditorium of the Thurmont High School at 8 o’clock. Officers will be elected by the more than 50 charter members.

Howard U. Quinn, State Organizer, and Tobias E. Zimmerman, Master of Pomona Grange, will officiate at the organization meeting. All interested persons will be welcome, they say.

                                          – The Frederick Post, January 16, 1946

January 1971, 50 Years Ago

Dam Plans Appear Setback

It looks like there will be no Sixes Bridge Dam authorization this year.

The dam, proposed for construction near Emmitsburg, has been approved on an omnibus bill passed by the U.S. Senate.

But it is in difficulty because the House version of the Rivers and Harbors bill carries no authorization for the proposed dam on the Monocacy a few miles southeast of here.

The Potomac River Center in Washington has reported some sources believe there won’t be a bill this year, that time will run out before a conference committee can iron out the disagreements between the Senate and House bills.

                                          – Emmitsburg Chronicle, January 1, 1971

Band Changes Practice Date

The Emmitsburg Municipal Band has changed its night for practice from Wednesday nights to Monday nights. This is done in hopes that more members will be able to attend. Therefore, until further notice, practice will be on Monday instead of Wednesday.

                                          – Emmitsburg Chronicle, January 1, 1971

January 1996, 25 Years Ago

Mary Myers Celebrates A Century

Mary Myers is 100 years old—a lady with a wealth of memories and here-and-now attitude.

“I never had any particular plan to live so long,” she said when interviewed at a reception in her honor on Sunday, December 17, at our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish Center, Thurmont. “But I do enjoy each day. When I look out my bedroom window in the morning, it doesn’t matter what the weather is. I see that another day has begun.”

                          – The Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch, January 1996

Mount Saint Mary’s Welcomes Mother Teresa

Inside a small, creaky-floored gym on  college campus nestled in the winter-glazed Catoctin Mountains, over two thousand people eagerly awaited the arrival of one of the world’s most famous women, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the eighty-five-year-old missionary and 1979 Nobel Prize winner, visited Mount Saint Mary’s College and Seminary on December 9.

Mother Teresa, a world-renowned figure known for her undying commitment to the most desperate poor, visited the oldest independent Catholic college in the country after receiving an invitation from the Seminary. Her trip to Emmitsburg was part of the missionary’s journey to Washington, D.C., where fifteen members of her order—the Missionaries of Charity—took their final vows. The new sisters will work in AIDS hospices in the District.

Thunderous applause and camera flashes greeted the humble woman whose thirty-minute speech embodied her quiet, powerful presence.

                          – The Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch, January 1996

Scatter Come Together

by Priscilla Rall

The motto for the 190th Field Artillery Long Tom Battalion (FAB) refers to its cavalry history going back to the Civil War. It reflects the cavalry tactics for a hard fought battle. But instead of horses, the 190th FAB used modern artillery pieces. A member of battalion’s headquarters group was a farm boy from near Sabillasville. Walter Leon Harbaugh was born on December 29, 1916, on the small farm in the home of Murry and Minnie Brown Harbaugh. The local area is named for his family, Harbaugh Valley. Walter had a large family, one of five children, and there were many chores to do each day. The family butchered hogs and then smoked the meat. Walter remembered they used sassafras and hickory chips for the fire. For two straight days, they had to make sure the fire did not break out into flames or “blaze up.” They also had two cows to milk, and had to cut wood for the cookstove and heat. They would use a cross-cut saw and then drag the log with horses to the mill. By age eight, Walter was using horses to plow. Thankfully, Maude and Colonel were gentle giants. At first, Walter went to a one-room school on Quirock Road and then to the school in Sabillasville. By his early teens, the Great Depression was in full swing. He left school at age 15 to work in construction and help the family.

But, soon, war loomed over the world, and Walter was drafted in June 1941. He was to serve one year. But after six months, war came to the United States, and he was in for the duration.

Walter trained at Fort Sill and then for 13 weeks at Fort Shelby in Mississippi. Finally, he set sail on the Queen Elizabeth as it zig-zagged across the Atlantic to avoid German subs. In seven days, they landed in Glasgow and soon crossed the Irish Sea in old cattle boats. He continued his training in mechanics, as the company had 6x6s, weapons carriers, prime movers, and jeeps. His unit was part of the 1st Army V Corps and was, by its nature, extremely mobile so that it could support the troops wherever they happened to be. While in Scotland, he managed to visit Belfast, but because of the black-out, he “couldn’t even find a pub.”

Walter was chosen to complete commando training taught by British soldiers who had recently been in North Africa. He was impressed by the British soldiers and got along well with them. With their stiff upper lip, they didn’t let anything bother them. In training, they used live ammunition, and one lieutenant was accidently shot in the ankle, but it could have been worse! For one of their exercises, they were taken outside at night and given just a map and a flashlight and had to find their way back to the base. They regularly made 25-mile marches, but that didn’t bother this tough farm boy. Back with his unit, they practiced beach landings after waterproofing their vehicles. They’d go out at about at 2:00 a.m. with a stove pipe extending from the exhaust pipe to keep the water out. Another time, they were left in the moors, but were not told the 110th Airborne was also there trying to “ambush” them. At the end, if you had a chalk “X” on your back, the troopers had gotten to you!

Finally, it was D-Day. Walter and his battalion were in a staging area and soon loaded in boats to cross the choppy channel. The 190th FAB landed on D-plus 2 at Omaha Beach. By 9:00 a.m., Battery A was firing at the enemy. Harbaugh was with the Group Headquarters Battalion and was soon fighting through the hedgerow country. The 190th supported the 29th Division in Normandy until St. Lo. There, Walter went to a hillside and looked down on the devastated city; he could see only a few church steeples sticking out from the ruins. They then fought their way across France, assisting in the Falaise Pocket. Then they stopped just for a day to participate in the victory parade through Paris. Then, through Aachen, where they faced heavy enemy resistance. Later, at St. Vith, there were three men in one foxhole. A shell hit the foxhole dead-on and killed the man in the middle, but left the ones on each side unharmed. In November, they spent 25 days giving support to the units caught up in the hellish battle in the Hurtgen Forest. In Walter’s words, “your life wasn’t worth a plugged nickel.” After that, the 190th was called on to help out in the Battle of the Bulge. As the Army crossed into Germany, the 190th found themselves at the Remagan Bridge. By this time, Harbaugh had enough points for a 45-day furlough. Fortunately, while he was in the good old USA, the war ended.

After taking a little time off to decompress from the war, Walter went back to working construction. Some of you may know of the Rocky Ridge Brick plant. Well, he was the foreman for that huge job.

Walter met Molly Emma Gates at a dance, and they were married soon after. They had six children. Son Leon was in the Vietnam War, and son Lamont served in the National Guard—a family that certainly served our country well and faithfully.

Walter Harbaugh died on December 30, 2017, at the age of 101. The last time I saw him, less than a year before his passing, he refused to let me get a ladder, and he picked the apples he wanted to give me himself! Rest in Peace, dear friend.

Courtesy Photos of Walter Leon Harbaugh

In Admiration of the Chicken

by Buck Reed

When it comes to our fine-feathered friend, the chicken, I have to admit I am a little biased. I keep about 40-50 chickens in my various coops. I raise them from chicks, feed them, watch over them, and even sing to them. “Close to You” by the Carpenters is a favorite of theirs. I even name them, so it would probably not surprise you to find that, although I eat chicken, I would never be able to eat one of mine. So, I do get a little irked when chefs talk about chicken dishes as being boring. I would turn it around and say boring chefs make boring chicken dishes.

Chickens were domesticated about 7,000-10,000 years ago and were considered a delicacy by the Roman Empire. Although they stuffed and cooked their birds, they were also known for their mashed chicken brain dishes. Some farmers were even known to fatten their chickens with wheat bread soaked in wine. This practice was deemed by the Senate to be a sign of the decadence of the times and rendered the practice to be illegal.

Roosters were bred at this time for fighting in most of the so-called “civilized” world because there was no television in those days. I can assure you that anyone who claims that it is in a rooster’s nature to fight one another, I can tell you that I have ten roosters that are not aggressive to me, anyone who visits, or each other. Only Fred, my Serama rooster, will nip at me if I come home and do not say hello to him or if he wants to be picked up. I feel a rooster, if allowed to do rooster things like protect the flock and help make little chickens, should live a happy life and grow to an old age before dying and becoming a delicious chicken stew called Coq au Vin. I love the dish, but not with my guys.

Okay, this is the point where I realize my article took a turn away from being about great chicken dishes and went toward my experience of raising chickens. This is not an uncommon occurrence. People who raise chickens as pets are mostly like this. We can talk for hours about our tiny backyard companions. We can chat about their health, what we feed them and when, what we put in their water, and how they look like tiny dinosaurs as they run across the grass. They have a great deal of personality, and most chicken owners will tell you the hour or two a day they spend with them is the best part of their day. Oh, yeah, and the eggs are better than anything you can find in a grocery store.

by Ava Morlier, Culinary Arts Program at CTC

Hello, everyone! I hope you had a great holiday. Now, before you lament over the loss of christmas (and the delicious foods you’ve consumed), rejoice! January (and the rest of the winter months) are a great time for delicious warm and hearty dishes that warm the soul. Dishes like chili, soup, and casseroles will melt your heart in these cold times and make you rethink those January blues. The dish I will introduce is one such hearty dish: Braised Chicken.

Though it may seem like a complicated process, braised chicken is a great dish because of how easy it is to make. Just do the dry cooking (cooking done on the skillet or stovetop), add stock, and throw it in the oven to forget about (until the timer rings, of course). There are three parts to braised chicken that make this dish flavorful and delicious: The process of searing, deglazing, and cooking the chicken in stock. Searing (which means cooking the meat on both sides quickly, often on a skillet) provides a flavor-base for the vegetables. Deglazing (the process of adding liquid to the cooked vegetables and scraping off browned bits) helps to unlock the flavor of both the vegetables and the brown bits that stick to the pan (the most flavorful part). Finally, cooking the chicken in the stock ensures that the chicken doesn’t dry out over the long cooking time and gives flavor to the chicken. Keep in mind that this dish involves both cooking on the stovetop and cooking in the oven.

I hope this dish can keep you warm in these cold January days!

Braised Chicken


4-5 bone-in chicken pieces (preferably chicken drumsticks)

1-2 stocks celery, chopped

1-2 large carrots, chopped

2 small onions, chopped

1 large potato, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock (I used instant stock powder, nothing fancy)

3 tsp. Olive oil (plus 4 tbsp. more for cooking)

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. salt

1 sprig thyme

2 tbsp. tomato puree

1 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. flour

 ¾ cup white wine

Tools Needed

– Large oven-proof pan

– 2 medium-sized bowls (one for holding raw chicken, 

     one for holding seared chicken)

– Heat-resistant spatula

– Fork

– 2 pairs of tongs

– Measuring cup (liquid)

– Several small bowls for holding chopped veggies


Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Chop veggies beforehand. Once finished, place in small bowls. In a separate bowl, place in 3-4 pieces bone-in chicken. Add salt, black pepper, paprika, and olive oil. Mix together by hand. Heat an oven-proof pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil. Place chicken in with first pair of tongs and allow to cook 4-5 minutes on one side. Flip to the other side and cook another 4-5 minutes. Discard the first pair of tongs. When finished, place chicken in clean bowl with second pair of tongs. Set aside.

Add in carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and potatoes, stirring occasionally. Cook until golden brown.

Add in butter, stir. Add in flour, stir. Add in tomato puree. This will make a thick roux with the vegetables. Add wine and stir.

Add in chicken or vegetable stock, scraping off browned bits. Place chicken back in pan, making sure not to let the chicken overlap or crowd the pan.

Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 2 hours. Stir after 1 hour. Take out of the oven and allow to cool. You can check if the chicken is done by placing a food thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken (though not near a bone) and ensuring that the temperature is 165 degrees or higher. Serve and enjoy!

Can be served with a toasted baguette, warm biscuits with honey butter, or salad.

(With credit to Chef Lynch on his French style Braised Chicken video)

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

Now that we’re all finally past the craziness of the holidays, we can sit back and relax, right? More often than not, our schedules get packed all over again with work and school. It seems like the stress never ends. But there is one way to help you alleviate stress, start your own creativi-tea and have fun!



Tea has a slew of benefits: it aids in gut health, keeps you (deliciously) hydrated, and can improve oral health. Simply taking a moment to make tea and enjoying it is a great way to practice mindfulness and take a time-out from the business of daily life. 

You don’t need to go to a fancy tea shop for some loose-leaf teas. You can grow and make your own! It’s not impossible to grow plants during January, even though it may frost-tea. Your house keeps you—and your plants—quite toast-tea. So, let’s get to how you can get growing.

Some great tea herbs you can grow include mint, lavender, lemon verbena, fennel, lemon balm, rose hips, chamomile, rosemary, and sage, just to name a few.

There’s No Place Like Home (for your planty friends)

Before you select your plants, make sure you have well-draining soil. About half an inch to one inch of pebbles at the bottom works. Slots or holes at the bottom can also do the trick (you can drill holes at the bottom if necessary). For these, make sure you have a stand that can elevate the pot so there is space underneath, and make sure to place a paper towel underneath. Try for lighter potting soil, but regular soil is sufficient. Herbs don’t really grow too deep, so a container three to five inches deep will suffice. The container can be as wide and long as you’d like.

Most herbs require five to six hours of sunlight (a grow light can be used in place of sunlight). If you grow thyme, make sure your little buddy gets eight hours of sunlight.

Moderate indoor temperatures are required, along the range of 60-70 degrees.

Winter is also the worst time for humidity, as you may have noticed based on extremely dry hands (my family has to constantly lotion their hands. More often than not, the claim of “24-hour moisture” is a lie). You can go and get a fancy humidifier if you want. You can use it for many years for your plants and yourself, but you can also make your own for much cheaper:

Put a sponge in a bowl, let it soak up as much water as possible, and  put it in an empty bowl/plastic bag with holes in it.

If the plants are by some curtains, spray the curtains so they are damp.

Mist from the shower (leave the door open and let the steam out!)

Boiling water.

Setting a glass of hot water out by the plant(s)

Moving Right Oolong…

Mint needs to be kept in its own container. It is one of the most invasive herbs out there. Sure, it wants to give everyone a hug, but it won’t let go. I have it in my outdoor garden, and I try to cut its tendrils away from other plants, but it ALWAYS comes back.

It’s best to keep the herbs separate, but some pair better in the same container than others. Lemon balm and lemon verbena pair together nicely and boost each other for a more citrus-y scent and an enhanced tangy taste.

Thyme, rosemary, and lavender can be put together and won’t affect each individual herb’s taste all that much.

You could try to raise these herbs from seeds, but with the winter temperatures and light, growing times can be pretty unpredictable, and you’ll get only a few leaves by summer. You can wait that long, but I know I have very little patience (not great when you’re a gardener, I know). It’s best to buy a plant that has already sprouted or is further matured.    

Maintaining Quali-tea

Snip leaves regularly (more tea for you that way) to encourage growth. Never take off more than a third of the plant’s extremities. Herbs can produce beautiful flowers if left to their own devices and with time (and can make the leaves you need really bitter, which is great if you like coffee). Regular trimming (or grabbing leaves off) will prevent this.

Make it Dry for Chai

Now it’s time to dry out the herbs. Make sure you wash the leaves (I know eating insects is becoming popular, but you probably don’t want to drink them). The cheapest method of drying herbs is to use free stuff: air! Tie clumps of the herb together, hanging them with stems pointing up in a warm place. You can protect them from dust and whatnot by tying a paper bag around them. With low humidity, they’ll dry your herbs and skin out pretty quickly.  You can also dry herbs in the oven (added bonus: it warms up your house, too!). Set your oven to 135 degrees (if your oven doesn’t go that low, do the lowest setting). You may need to turn herbs over for even drying. When the herbs are dry for both methods, they should easily break away from the stem and in your hands.

Time to Par-tea!

You can grow any combination of herbs you want to make teas—there are tons of recipes out there. Just find the herbs you want for your favorite tea!  Some great herbs for reducing stress include lavender, mint, lemon balm, and rosemary. I hope you give this a chai.

You can do it. I believe in brew!

Growing parsley in a container. While it may not be a tea herb, it’s a great visual of container growing.

Counting Our Blessings

by Anita DiGregory

In celebration of the last day before an extended holiday break, my daughter’s lovely and very talented tutor had created a “Grammar Bingo” game for the class. Each child chose their own card from her stack of handmade bingo cards.  My daughter chose hers and then proceeded to win grammar bingo not once, not twice, but five times!  As we climbed into the car with all her candy winnings, I joked on our way home from our homeschool cooperative that maybe she should try her luck with a lottery ticket.  Her homemade cards made me think, though: Can you imagine if we all had bingo cards for the year 2020?  Who would have had murder hornets for the win? How about toilet paper hoarding?

I think we could probably all agree that if 2020 had a motto, it would be the year when everything was out of whack and nothing went as planned. For many, it was a year of tragedy, of loss, of division, of suffering, of sadness, of isolation.  Many have fallen ill; many have lost friends and loved ones. And all of us, even those fortunate enough not to personally be infected, have been impacted by the reverberations of this pandemic. And, as a result of the very nature of the beast, we have been denied of the very things that would bring us any semblance of solace: church services, gyms, restaurants, and even each other. 

Last Thanksgiving, my family lost not just one but two beloved family members. I recently read somewhere that the human body remembers trauma. As these anniversaries drew closer, I could feel my anxiety grow.  And, as the 2020 holiday season drew closer, I so deeply desired to be with all of my loved ones. Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen. My parents and brothers and their families couldn’t be here. Even my son, my expectant daughter-in-law,  and our granddaughter couldn’t be with us, care of COVID-19…the gift that keeps on giving.

I may never get “the big picture” or understand why things happen the way they do, but I do trust in God and His perfect love for each and every one of us. Even as COVID-19 threatens to follow us deep into 2021, we can still choose to make this a wonderful year and strive to become our best selves. I think the challenge lies in becoming the best version of ourselves, not because of all life presents us with, but in spite of it. One of the keys to this may be cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  For example, instead of thinking of all 2020 as ruined, perhaps it would be helpful to count the blessings it brought. I have a friend who shared that she chooses to remember 2020 as the year she had her husband at home, a year that brought them closer as a family and as a couple.  Personally, 2020 brought much of my family back under one roof again. I am thankful for the gift of time with my loved ones, and I find myself even more grateful for and appreciative of those times when we are all together. I am also thankful for all those working on the frontlines, for the doctors; nurses; police; fire, rescue, and EMTs; priests; teachers; and the parents who have added homeschooling tutors to their long list of responsibilities this school year.

Gratitude reminds us of those things we may have taken for granted and helps us focus on all the blessings in our lives. Cultivating gratitude isn’t always easy; it is a skill worthy of developing and practicing each day. 

Overwhelming amounts of research show that gratitude is the most powerful way to increase happiness. Simply developing the habit of writing in a gratitude journal for five minutes a day has been proven to have substantial health benefits. Furthermore, in a research study that examined those who counted their blessings and those that counted their burdens, it was noted that the grateful group reported increased well-being, had better health, exercised more, felt life was better, and had increased optimism. But that is not all. In over 50 studies on gratitude, it was observed that grateful individuals experienced improvements in their health, personality, and career, as well as personally, socially, and emotionally. Some specific benefits included improved health and sleep, increased energy, optimism, altruism, self-esteem, better relationships, and feeling happier, more relaxed, and more resilient. 

So here’s to making 2021 different. Let’s make it a year to become the best version of ourselves, to be present and intentional in every moment. Let’s put what really matters most first. Let’s work hard but strive to love and pray harder. Let’s perform random acts of kindness, help others, give more than we get, say “I love you,” go to church, say “I am sorry,” and not put off until tomorrow what we should get done today. Let’s not take one second for granted, but count our blessings and strive to be grateful for all the beautiful moments, big and small. It may sound like a tall order, but can you imagine what this world would be like if we all strived to become the best version of ourselves?  I pray that you and yours have a safe, wonderful, and blessed new year.

Ring Out the Old!   Bring In the New!

by Christine Maccabee 

“As certain as the turning of Fall into Winter,
     there can be no stopping the changes,
             for change is the very nature of Nature.” 

~ from Life Poems by Christine

Life changes can be challenging, sometimes sudden, sometimes sad or happy, but at all times, occurring.

To say that we are the captains of our own ships, or fates, and can choose the direction our lives take, is far too simplistic for my taste. There are many subtle, and not so subtle, things occurring inside us and around us, that also determine the course our lives will take.

Some things are not a choice, like a wildfire or a mudslide that consumes our home, precious possessions, and sometimes the humans and animals we love. I think of the horrible mudslides in Central America recently or the ongoing wildfires in California. Was there a choice for the homeowners in California? I guess the choice was building one’s dream home near forests, not realizing factors way beyond their control were looming on the horizon. Once the combination of drought, heat, wind, tinder, and a power line that fell or a campfire left unattended happen, they had very little control. I think most of us in Upper Frederick County are counting our blessings to live in such a relatively safe place. I know I do!

The question is: What DO we have control of? Daily, we all work on how we can make better choices for our lives, for our futures, and for our children’s futures. There are so many unknowns at play, I dare to say that there are, indeed, no answers to fit every situation. Ultimately, we must ride the waves with all the wit and will we have to survive. Perhaps, that is the only real choice we have, to use our wit and will to make sense of and learn how to make the best of whatever situation comes our way.

Somewhere I saw, maybe on Facebook, that it isn’t correct to say that we are all in the same boat. Rather, we are all in different boats, but on the same ocean. I like that. However, I believe we could also say that we are all in it together, here on this planet we call Earth, this unique blue marble floating in space, all sharing the same air and water, though some have it much worse than others. The hope is that as we work to save others, including wildlife, from pollution and climate disruption, we are also saving ourselves and our planet as well. I am always thrilled to read about people who give their lives to save habitat and wild animals. I think of a few who touched me with their courage such as Jane Goodall and Julia Butterfly, who lived in a huge Redwood tree for over a year, ultimately saving it and the grove around it. They are my heroes, along with so many others.

In the New Year, it is all our problems to figure out what course we will take for our lives. We consumeristic humans have made a huge negative impact on the environment. So, the wisest of choices are needed to be made as to how to cross that ocean with leaky boats—and they all have leaks. We likely will not all make it, but we must try our best. Not trying is not an option, either on a personal or political level. We can all do something, no matter how small.

Yes, the Old has affected us in unavoidable negative ways, though there have been many positive ways as well. So, now the challenge is to fix the leaky boat, embrace the inevitable changes with courage, and build on the Old to create something New…or at least, something Better!

by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center

Is Secondhand Smoke Putting Your Health in Danger?

Secondhand smoke is composed of sidestream smoke (the smoke released from the burning end of a cigarette) and exhaled mainstream smoke (the smoke exhaled by the smoker. Most nonsmokers do not want to breathe tobacco smoke. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds, and secondhand smoke contains many of the same chemicals that are present in the smoke inhaled by smokers. Because sidestream smoke is generated at lower temperatures and under different conditions than mainstream smoke, it contains higher concentrations of many of the toxins found in cigarette smoke. The National Toxicology Program estimates that at least 250 chemicals in secondhand smoke are known to be toxic or carcinogenic.  When nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke, they inhale many of the same cancer-causing chemicals that smokers inhale. The Surgeon General has concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke; even small amounts of secondhand smoke exposure can be harmful to people’s health.

Secondhand smoke contains a number of poisonous gases and chemicals, including hydrogen cyanide (used in chemical weapons), carbon monoxide (found in car exhaust), butane (used in lighter fluid), ammonia (used in household cleaners), and toluene (found in paint thinners). Some of the toxic metals contained in secondhand smoke include arsenic (used in pesticides), lead (formerly found in paint), chromium (used to make steel), and cadmium (used to make batteries).

Children Are Most Exposed in the Home

The home is the place where children are most exposed to secondhand smoke. Children who live in homes where smoking is allowed have higher levels of cotinine (a biological marker of secondhand smoke exposure) than children who live in homes where smoking is not allowed. As the number of cigarettes smoked in the home increases, children’s cotinine levels rise.

Both babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant and babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies who are not exposed to cigarette smoke. Mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke while pregnant are more likely to have lower birth weight babies, which makes babies weaker and increases the risk for many health problems. Babies whose mothers smoke while pregnant or who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth have weaker lungs than other babies, which increases the risk for many health problems. Secondhand smoke exposure causes acute lower respiratory infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, in infants and young children. Secondhand smoke exposure causes children who already have asthma to experience more frequent and severe attacks. Secondhand smoke exposure causes respiratory symptoms, including cough, phlegm, wheeze, and breathlessness, among school-aged children. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are also at increased risk for ear infections. 

Protecting Yourself and

Loved Ones from Secondhand Smoke

Protecting yourself from secondhand smoke is important because breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful. The Surgeon General has concluded that the only way to fully protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of secondhand smoke is through 100-percent smoke-free environments. Opening a window, sitting in a separate area, or using ventilation, air conditioning, or a fan cannot eliminate secondhand smoke exposure. You can protect yourself and your loved ones by making your home and car smoke-free, asking people not to smoke around you and your children, and making sure that your children’s day care center or school is smoke-free. You can also choose restaurants and other businesses that are smoke-free, thanking businesses for being smoke-free and letting owners of businesses that are not smoke-free know that secondhand smoke is harmful to your family’s health. You can also teach children to stay away from secondhand smoke. You should avoid secondhand smoke exposure especially if you or your children have respiratory conditions, if you have heart disease, or if you are pregnant.

If you are a smoker, the single best way to protect your family from secondhand smoke is to quit smoking. In the meantime, you can protect your family by making your home and vehicles smoke-free and only smoking outside. A smoke-free-home rule can also help you quit smoking

There Is No Risk-Free Level of Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

Scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful to your health. It causes lung cancer. It is known that concentrations of many cancer-causing and toxic chemicals are potentially higher in secondhand smoke than in the smoke inhaled by smokers. It can cause heart disease. Breathing secondhand smoke for even a short time can have immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, interfering with the normal functioning of the heart, blood, and vascular systems in ways that increase the risk of heart attack. Even spending a short time in a smoky room can cause your blood platelets to become stickier, damage the lining of blood vessels, decrease coronary flow velocity reserves, and reduce heart rate variability. Persons who already have heart disease are at especially high risk of suffering adverse effects from breathing secondhand smoke, and should take special precautions to avoid even brief exposure. It also causes acute respiratory effects. Secondhand smoke contains many chemicals that can quickly irritate and damage the lining of the airways. Even brief exposure can trigger respiratory symptoms, including cough, phlegm, wheezing, and breathlessness. Brief exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack in children with asthma. Persons who already have asthma or other respiratory conditions are at especially high risk for being affected by secondhand smoke, and should take special precautions to avoid secondhand smoke exposure.


Smoking is the single greatest avoidable cause of disease and death. Millions of Americans, both children and adults, are exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. Also, in some states, it is still legal to smoke in bars.

Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and in adults who do not smoke. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25-30 percent and lung cancer by 20-30 percent.

The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Conventional air-cleaning systems can remove large particles, but not the smaller particles or the gases found in secondhand smoke. Routine operation of a heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system can distribute secondhand smoke throughout a building. So only by eliminating smoking in indoor spaces can you fully protect nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Interested in quitting? You can access a telephone quit-line serving your area by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1¬800-784-8669) or visit

If you are struggling with health issues, call the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650 for a free consultation. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health. The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick, MD. Check out the website at


by Randy Nusbaum

The year was 2020 as Christmas Eve was settling into the frost-covered Catoctin Mountains. The air was crisp, the Christmas lights glowing, the soft church bells echoing in the distance. The cool night air was filled with the warm aroma of pies, cakes, and Christmas Eve dinners. The hustle of the day was past, the excitement of the coming day starting to build. There was a comforting calmness wrapping its arms around the night. The jolly ‘ole elf stood on the corner, taking in the magic of the night.

St. Nick pondered that the year had been like no other. The routine of everyday life turned upside down. The peculiarity of shutdowns, closings, sheltering, social distancing, and covering our faces, offering up new challenges to folks’ traditional level of contentment. Questions looming, “Would our lives ever be the same?” As he often did, Nick wondered what possible gift he could bring this year to ease the burden.

As St. Nick strolled the quiet streets, he observed the last-minute preparations. Through the windows, he could see parents smiling as they placed gifts under the trees while the children slept. There was the occasional flutter of curtains in rooms where children pretended to sleep in an effort to catch a glimpse as he passed by.

Then it occurred to him, the gift had been arriving throughout the year. As folks adjusted their lives, they were spending more and more time in a place called home. Spending more time enjoying what they had, the things they worked so hard for throughout the year. Spending more time with their spouses, children, and families, something many had lost sight of in their busy lives. This gave Nick pause to smile before continuing on his Christmas journey.

From one Santa to another, this Christmas, take time to enjoy your homecoming. And in the immortal words of Tiny Tim: “God bless us, everyone.”

                                                ~Merry Christmas

by James Rada, Jr.

December 1920, 100 Years Ago

Pike Purchased

Yesterday, December 15th, if reports be correct, the last tollgate in the county closed the pike from Woodsboro to Frederick for the last time. After considerable talking and scheming to get rid of this gate, the State Roads Commission finally purchased the pike, 3.26 miles, for the sum of $40,000. The pike begins at Fifth and Market streets in Frederick and runs to the Monocacy bridge at or near Ceresville. The receipts received at this gate in the year 1919 are given as $11,375.99, and for the year 1920 to December 1st, $10,779.51.

                                          – Catoctin Clarion, December 16, 1920

Maj. Geo. T. Castle Dead

After an illness[s] of many months, Major George T. Castle, of Thurmont, died at the home of his sister, Mrs. W. W. Zimmerman, W. Main street, about six p.m. Thursday, November 25, 1920.

Major Castle was a veteran of the civil war and was in the service during the four years. He was a member of Company A, of Frederick. On November 26, 1862, he was promoted to the rank of captain, and was made a major August 16, 1865. He was Commander of Jason Damuth Post No. 80, G. A. R. of Thurmont, for the past five years, and was assistant inspector for the Department of Maryland at the time of his death. He was aged 79 years, 2 months and 7 days.

                                          – Catoctin Clarion, December 2, 1920

December 1945, 75 Years Ago

Emmitsburg High School Has Orchestra

The Emmitsburg high school orchestra, under the direction of Charles C. T. Stull, has been organized for 1945-46. There are beginners, juniors and seniors. The beginners’ orchestra will be started in the near future.

                                          – Gettysburg Times, December 18, 1945

Thurmont Soldier Smuggles German Dog Home Safely

A Thurmont soldier, Pfc. Ellis Rice, finally succeeded in smuggling home a young German female for the holidays, after various strategy needed to get her across the Atlantic and in a Blue Ridge bus where pups don’t usually find a welcome.

Pfc. Rice, a veteran of the 80th U. S. Infantry, said he found “Mickey” the day she was born in Bamberg, Germany. He rolled the dog into his overcoat to get her aboard the transport that brought him back to this country, sharing his food with her and enlisting the aid of other GI’s to keep her hidden during the crossing.

No one objected to the Dachshund on the troop train to Fort Meade, however, and after some delay in Baltimore, a Blue Ridge driver looked the other way to allow the soldier and his dog to ride home.

                                          – Hagerstown Morning Herald, December 27, 1945

December 1970, 50 Years Ago

Town To Enforce Peddlers’ Ordinance

The possibility of creating a nice ice skating area on Flat Run was discussed at the regular meeting of the Mayor and Commissioners held Monday evening in the Town Office, Chairman of the Board J. N. Flax presiding.

The discussion brought into consideration the sandbagging and backing up of water in Flat Run in East End. This section was recently dredged and cleaned and would provide several hundred feet of good skating area once freezing weather was here to stay.

                                          – Emmitsburg Chronicle, December 11, 1970

Slow-Moving Vehicles Must Be Marked

Commissioner of Motor Vehicles Ejner J. Johnson this week reminded owners of slow-moving vehicles that, effective January 1, 1971, their vehicles must be equipped with the uniform slow-moving vehicle symbol in order to operate legally upon the highways of Maryland.

Commissioner Johnson noted that the new law specifies that it is illegal to operate “any vehicle or combination of vehicles which is designed to be and is operated at a speed of 25 miles per hour or less, unless the rear-most vehicle displays a ‘slow-moving vehicle emblem’.”

The emblem is an equilateral triangle 14 inches in height with a red reflective border not less than one and three-quarters inches in width with a fluorescent orange center.

                                          – Emmitsburg Chronicle, December 11, 1970

December 1995, 25 Years Ago

Water Distribution Problems Limit Town’s Growth and Development

Continuing problems with the town’s water treatment facility and water distribution system force a moratorium on growth and development within the corporate limits of Emmitsburg. Resolution 95-16, adopted by the town commissioners at the November town meeting, halts expansion while necessary work is completed.

The quality of drinking water is lowered by the presence of rust in older iron distribution lines. Plans and funding are in place to replace 12,400 feet of water lines. As a temporary solution, residents of affected areas have been supplied with water filters until the new lines can be installed.

                          – The Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch, December 1995

Up-County To Get New Building

A ground-breaking ceremony for the new home of the Up-County Family Center (UCFC) was held November 20, 1995, at 303 W. Lincoln Avenue in Emmitsburg. The town of Emmitsburg will own the facility which will be leased by the Up-County Family Center and the counseling services of Associated Catholic Charities.

                          – The Emmitsburg Regional Dispatch, December 1995

by Valerie Nusbaum

Okay, my friends, I hate to call anyone out, but quite frankly, I’m tired of all the whining and complaining about being forced to stay home and spend time with family. Yes, this pandemic situation has gone on way too long, and, yes, we’re all tired of not being able to live our lives the way we’d like, but this is the way things are going to be for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, I’m taking it upon myself to offer some instruction and tips for surviving the holidays in quarantine mode. 

First, let’s discuss gifts and shopping. Most of your holiday shopping should be done online to avoid crowd situations. In order to ensure that your family’s gifts will arrive in time for Christmas morning, you should order them in April. What? You didn’t do that? Neither did I. My family is getting gifts from Dollar Tree. I recently found out that I’m getting a Halloween throw for Christmas from my mom. She ordered it in July, and it just arrived. I’m also getting a lovely green quilt that Mom ordered for her own bed, only to find out that it was too big and heavy for her to deal with. In return, I get to buy my mother a bedspread more to her liking. At least now I know what she wants.  Don’t you feel silly for complaining about YOUR situation?

Another great gift idea is to give the gift of sanitation. Who knew that toilet paper and hand wipes would be the gifts we’d be asking for? A nice basket filled with all sorts of soaps and cleaning products, paper towels, and PPE is sure to elicit smiles and sighs of pleasure.

This year, it might also be a nice idea to thank the essential workers in your life, and I’m including the folks at the grocery stores, the fast food drive-thrus, and the postal workers, as well as medical professionals, law enforcement, and firefighters. Say “thank you” to anyone who’s helped you get through this mess. I’ll gift as many as possible even if it’s just handing out individually wrapped and sanitized candy canes.

At this point, we should talk about holiday refreshments and libations. I would not recommend that you add liquor to your eggnog. A few years ago, we got into trouble with that. There is a very nice drink called a Kris Kringle, made by adding cranberry juice to Prosecco. It’s pretty and looks like sparkling grape juice, which is what you can tell the kids you’re drinking. Shop smartly, though, and have a bottle or two of the grape juice on hand. Kids aren’t as dumb as you think.

Since we’ve been eating like little piggies all spring and summer long, maybe we should rethink the huge holiday meals and the baking frenzy that we traditionally associate with this season. Let’s make a nice tossed salad, grill some fish or chicken, and eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t worry. I’m only messing with you.  Eat all you want and enjoy it. We have the added bonus this year of not having to wear pants at home, so it won’t matter if they don’t fit.  The grocery stores have done a good job of keeping shelves stocked and keeping food available in these difficult circumstances. It was dicey at first, but things have improved.  You’ve probably racked up lots of grocery points, so grab a free turkey and a cheap ham and make soups and casseroles to get you through the winter months. Randy is trying his hand at baking, and he’s doing a lot more of the cooking around here. He’s getting better at it, and I’m enjoying a nice break from the kitchen.

Decorate your home with whatever you have on hand. Use fresh greens from your yard (or the neighbors’ yards if you’re stealthy) and fruit and nuts from the markets. You can do all sorts of arts and crafts with the kids. Last year, Randy made some Christmas trees out of green wired tomato cages. They were so silly that I laughed every time I saw them. 

Randy and I have been very busy filling orders this season since more people are shopping online.  We created a tree ornament in the shape of a face mask, and I’m working on a Dr. Fauci bobblehead doll. If you push the little button on the bottom, you’ll hear the good doctor’s voice rasping, “Wear your mask @#%$&**!”  If you can sew, you might make some masks for your friends and family.  I don’t sew well, but I’ve made dozens of them. Some of them are painful to wear, but beggars can’t be choosers.

I feel certain that Randy will don his Santa suit on Christmas Eve, as he does every year. This year, though, he will likely only wear the jacket, wig, beard and hat. Pants, as always, are optional.  He may or may not take his annual midnight walk through the neighborhood this year, but if he does, I hope he remembers to cover himself. No child wants to remember Santa that way.

I want to give a shout-out to Jen Shesman, who took the time to write some very nice things about my column, and I truly appreciate it. Thank you, Jen!

My family and I are wishing all of you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. I’m hoping we all get through it and can find some things to laugh about.

The Year is…1853

by James Rada, Jr.

Cholera Kills Dozens in Emmitsburg

In July 1853, Emmitsburg residents started getting sick and dying. According to James Helman’s History of Emmitsburg, the first victim was an African American, named Isaac Norris.

Helman wrote, “…he was taken early in the night in a stable and died there; black men attended him, not knowing the disease; whether the doctor did or not, I am not prepared to say. Suffice it to say, he died during the night and was buried in Dr. Patterson’s field.”

Five people died during the first week as officials tried to determine the cause. They realized it was cholera, an intestinal infection. The most common symptom is a lot of watery diarrhea that lasts for days. The diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. These symptoms can result in sunken eyes, cold skin, a wrinkling of the hands and feet, and bluish skin.

The cause of cholera is often unsafe water or food that has been contaminated by the bacteria. Poor sanitation and insufficient clean drinking water often led to cholera outbreaks in the 1800s.

The Gettysburg Compiler reported that 45 people in town and the surrounding area died. Victims included Dr. A. Taney and his wife; Joseph Moritz; Mrs. Agnew, a resident in the Eagle hotel; Rev. Thomas McCaffery; George Mentzer; and Samuel Morrison, according to Helman.

Rev. Thomas McCaffrey was a professor at Mount St. Mary’s College. The Story of the Mountain notes “…when the cholera broke out, he went to visit some of his former parishioners and townsmen who were taken down. He caught the disorder and died at the College, a martyr of charity, the glory of the Mountain village. Strange to say, his death was the only one on this side of Tom’s Creek.”

Besides the dying, many people were left sick and in a weak condition.

Some people tried to downplay the severity of the problem. A resident wrote a letter to the Adams County Sentinel saying, “Emmitsburg and the country around are as healthy as they ever were, fully as healthy as any other place in the Union.” The writer also tried to find other explanations of why people were dying, noting that George Mentzer had a stroke and Agnes Brown died of dropsy.

As the outbreak stretched into August, it became obvious that Emmitsburg had a problem.

Those who weren’t sick tried their best to help those who were sick. The Emmitsburg Chronicle noted in a 1951 article that the Rev. G. W. Aughinbaugh of the Reformed Church “evinced no small degree of courage and self-sacrifice in ministering to the suffering during its entire course.”

The Lancaster Daily Intelligencer reported on August 23, “A physician recently returned from Emmitsburg states that during the prevalence of the Cholera at that place, of which nearly forty persons have perished, but which is now abating, the water of several wells was found to be deleteriously affected, and also that a number of lower animals, reptiles, etc, have been found dead.”

“It continued dry the entire summer and very hot until the middle of September, when a very severe thunderstorm passed this way, drenching the earth and washing the surface as it had not been for many months. After this rain, no new cases occurred,” Helman wrote.

Helman notes the problem was in the well water and that once the town started relying on mountain water, such problems were overcome.

In early September, the Adams County Sentinel reported, “There have been no cases of cholera here for two weeks. Our town is very healthy at present, and most all of those who had left have returned. There were about forty-five deaths in all—town and country—from the commencement of the disease till the decline.”

The Chronicle noted in 1911 that the cholera epidemic was “instrumental in reducing our population from 700 to 350.” It was a drop in population that the town didn’t recover from until the early 1880s, according to U.S. Census data.

Cholera Bacteria Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

by Priscilla Rall

Playing Ball in Germany

Seventy-Five Years Ago

Seventy-five years ago, where were you? My father, Captain J. E. Rall, was in post-war Germany, an army doctor stationed in Nuremburg amongst the ruins of a once-great city. I wasn’t even born yet. Thousands of thankful American soldiers didn’t have to fight any longer. The war was over, and the killing ended.

One of those happy soldiers was the late Ronald Charles Manning. He was born on July 27, 1915, in Pennsylvania and grew up in rural western Maryland. His family ran a small market in Clear Spring. Ron was a married man of 28 when he was drafted. With two young daughters and one on the way, he was not anxious for combat. But he put in his time, and now there was peace. Ron and a group of “high pointers” were marking time until they could return stateside. He had accumulated 87 points (for the Silver Stars, battles fought, and dependents). A high-ranking officer told the men they needed to be “in training.” That didn’t sit too well with the battle-hardened men. Ron told the officer he had two years of training (an understatement), and he didn’t need anymore. What they needed was a few baseball bats, balls, and gloves, and they would stay out of trouble. A few days later, much to his surprise, the sports gear arrived. So, 75 years ago, Ron and his men spent three months playing ball until they were finally sent home in December 1945.

When the troopship carrying Ron pulled into New York, no crowds or ceremonies marked his homecoming, only Lady Liberty welcomed him home and his beloved wife, Nancy, who had given birth to their third child, alone. She had raised their three young girls while staying with her parents, and they ran their small grocery store in Clear Spring. Now they were together again. Nancy never asked Ron about his time at war. Ron never told her of his experiences. Words always failed him, but he never forgot the horrors of war. He had the scarred and numb fingers from frostbite to remind him.

He had been in England when he heard of the Normandy invasion, but he “didn’t think much of it.” Soon, he realized that he would soon be there himself. He was with the Tank Corps 6th Armored Division, the “Super Sixth.” D-Day plus three found Ron landing at Utah Beach. He saw the remnants of the assault… “It was terrible.” The destruction from the massive bombing and shelling shocked him. There was still strong enemy resistance, and the objective of St. Lo wasn’t realized until mid-July. Ron and his division then fought the retreating Germans south to Brest. After the Germans at Brest finally surrendered, he vividly remembered seeing hundreds of German POWs, mainly old men.

Eventually, his division moved through France to Belgium. It was then that the German breakout known as the Battle of the Bulge began, threatening the entire Allied effort. Ron and his troops were clothed only in summer uniforms. When Gen. George Patton was informed of this problem, he said that they had no choice but to go to the aid of the besieged troops at Bastogne. Ron noted that “it wouldn’t have mattered if we were naked; Patton would have sent them anyway.” Wearing only summer pants, a thin Eisenhower jacket, and a trench coat not designed for combat, the troops fought bravely. When the winds and snow were too much, they would dig a trench and run a tank over it, providing shelter for three men, as well as a target for the enemy. More often than not, they simply slept in their sleeping bags in shallow foxholes and would wake up covered with newly fallen snow. They had no hot food, just C-rations, and even those became scarce as the fighting raged on. Once, when Ron was sent into Bastogne to get mail for his company, a shell burst, narrowly missing him—but he did get the mail for his unit.

Ron and his company were defending Hill 510. When asked what was on that hill, Ron replied, “Nothing.” But, in fact, it was a strategic spot that defended a vital crossroad just northeast of Bastogne. One night, Ron noticed some moving figures, vaguely silhouetted against a nearby row of cedars. Then he saw what he thought looked like enemy tanks slowly moving towards his position. Ron tried to contact his command post, but the communications were down, so he ran through the dark to alert the command. Racing back, he discovered the wires had been broken from the recent shelling. Quickly repairing them, he returned to his company and roused his men, even pounding on tanks to wake the drivers. His company, now aware of the German offensive, spent the next three days and nights defending Hill 510. They were successful. It was for this that Sgt. Manning earned a Silver Star Commendation.

Finally, the German offensive was defeated, but the war continued. Ron didn’t remember the names of all of the towns, rivers, and cities where he fought. It was simply one battle after another. As a platoon sergeant, he once discovered a German pillbox that had gone undetected. He led his men in a successful machine gun assault of the enemy position. On a later mission, his platoon returned one man short. Ron and another soldier (Johnny Cash’s uncle) set out to retrieve the missing man. After going a half-mile, Ron told Cash to wait there and to cover him as he continued the search. Ron finally found his man lying against a cedar tree, wounded in the head and moaning. Ron hoisted him on his shoulders and began to carry him to safety. He trudged through the snow, with enemy bullets ringing around him. Ron eventually had to lay the wounded man across his back and walk, bent over, towards his lines. The three men eventually got back to safety. For these two heroic actions, Ron earned another Silver Star (with Oak Leaf Clusters).

Ron Manning saw the destruction of Germany first-hand. He saw the smoldering remains of factories bombed by Allied planes. He described one small town, completely destroyed and flattened, with only a chicken wandering alone in the ruins. They didn’t even have the time to eat the poor chicken. He did remember one hot holiday meal. It was either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Memorable because there were “more feathers than turkey!”

After the war, he joined the American Legion, but found that he didn’t have much in common with the younger men. His awards proudly hung in the Manning’s home until his death, and the old photos have been kept safely in an album, now with his daughters.

The battle-scarred Veteran died on September 14, 2011. He peacefully slipped away, noticed only by his family and a few old friends. He was 96 and had lost his wife, as well as most of his contemporaries. Just one of the last of the “Greatest Generation,” who had answered his country’s call, fought in some of the war’s most fierce battles, to return home and work the rest of his life as a machinist. He loved sports and fishing, but most of all, his family. Ron Manning was one of the quiet heroes of World War II who ended his fighting days playing ball 75 years ago.

Courtesy Photos of Ronald Charles Manning

If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and was able to spend time with their family.

It seemed really strange not to be able to celebrate our Veterans in a way that we are accustomed to, but hopefully, Veterans were recognized for their service to our country.

December will bring another quiet month to the Legion, as there will not be Breakfast with Santa or a Ham & Turkey Night events. It’s a shame because both have been successful events in the past.

Don’t forget to pay your dues. If you are interested in becoming a member, stop by the Legion (8 Park Lane in Thurmont), and pick up an application.

The Legion will also be closed on Thursday, December 24, and Friday, December 25, in observance of Christmas. Please enjoy this time with your family!

The kitchen remains open Wednesday through Friday, 5:00-8:00 p.m., while the Legion is open.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Submitted by Kevin Cogan, Commander Post No. 121


Seventy-nine years ago, on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the American Navy and Army base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by the Japanese. The attack came as a deliberate surprise that lead to a great loss of American Navy and Army lives. More than 2,000 Americans were killed, and more than 1,000 were injured. The events in Pearl Harbor that day led to the escalation of World War II. The day after the attack, the United States declared war on Japan and entered World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt said in a speech that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was “a date which will live in infamy.” Let us remember our Pearl Harbor Veterans on December 7 and pray for them and all our military.

Veterans and their families: Don’t miss out on the benefits you’ve earned and deserve. You can become an American Legion member as a Veteran, Auxiliary, or Son. Together, we can provide life-changing support to one another. If you are a Veteran or know of a Veteran needing assistance or support, call us at 301-447-2274.

I would like to thank all the volunteers who dedicate their time to our Post, as without them we would not be able to accomplish the things that we do.

Merry Christmas to all our brave soldiers; thank you for your commitment to our country’s freedom and integrity. People like you are the reason why we have a peaceful and happy holiday. We will always be thankful for your hard work and sacrifice for making our country a better place.

To all, have a blessed and Very Merry Christmas and Holiday Season! God bless the USA.

by Denise Valentine

Hello, everyone. I hope everyone is healthy. With recent reports that the pandemic is reaching crises levels again, more people are looking for projects to do at home.

I thought it would be fun to share a recipe that is interactive with the children or grandchildren. Everyone loves cookies. These Candy Cane Cookies are perfect for Christmas. Enjoy them yourself or make them for gift-giving.

I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas.

Candy Cane Cookies

½ cup butter or margarine, softened
½ cup shortening
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
1½ tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. red food color
½ cup crushed peppermint candy
½ cup granulated sugar

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix thoroughly butter, shortening, confections’ sugar, egg, and flavorings. Blend in flour and salt. Divide dough in half; blend food color into one half.

Shape 1 teaspoon dough from each half into 4-inch rope. For smooth, even ropes, roll them back and forth on lightly floured board. Place ropes side by side; press together lightly and twist. Complete cookies one at a time. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Curve top down to form handle of cane.

Bake about 9 minutes or until set and very light brown. Mix candy and granulated sugar. Immediately sprinkle cookies with candy mixture; remove from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack.

by Maxine Troxell

Christmastime is almost here.  Time to start to think of all the holiday goodies you will be baking this year, from cookies to cakes and all kinds of spicy goodies. Growing up, my mom would make all kinds of cakes. My mom and all her sisters were great bakers. I always loved applesauce cake with all the spices, raisins, and nuts. I found the recipe below in a cookbook from Damascus in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I do not remember what organization it was in, but I did copy the recipe and have used it as entries in the Community Show. It has won a lot of blue ribbons. This cake is so easy to make because there are no eggs, and you just put all the ingredients, except the raisins and nuts, into a mixing bowl. I am a fan of fruitcake, so if you like candied fruit, you can add candied fruit to the raisin and nut mixture.  At Christmastime, I like to decorate it with candied cherries and nuts. If you use a Bundt pan to bake the cake, you can put the candied cherries and the walnuts in the grooves in the bottom of the pan.

Applesauce Cake

4 cups ( minus ¼ cup for raisins and nuts)  all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar  
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup butter (melted)
2 cups raisins
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups applesauce
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously grease and flour 10-inch tube or Bundt cake pan.  Mix all ingredients except raisins and nuts. In a small bowl, combine raisins and nuts.  Add ¼ cup flour to raisins and nuts to coat.  Add the raisin and nut mixture to cake batter.  Using a spatula, fold raisin and nut mixture in until mixed through.  Bake in pre-heated oven for 1 to 1½ hours (until toothpick inserted comes out clean).  

Remove cake from oven and cool for 10 minutes.  Invert cake onto cooling rack.  When cake is cool, sift powdered sugar on top.  Keep cake in an airtight container.  To keep cake moist, you can wrap cake

in a cheesecloth soaked with cooking sherry.

by Buck Reed

 a chart

Stories from a Culinary Student

by Ava Morlier, Culinary Arts Program at CTC

Well, my culinary arts class has officially moved on to breakfast. From quick breads to bacon, our class has been covering the most important meal of the day quite thoroughly. This has resulted in many a dinner becoming breakfast as well; and, of course, the eggs are still inescapable!

Today, I want to highlight an easy breakfast dish that I have learned about: Biscuits & Gravy.

Let me start with the gravy. Before you pop that can of gravy from the store (which makes my culinary teacher cry), keep in mind that making gravy is ridiculously easy. Even I thought that the perfect, non-lumpy gravy was unattainable (as I usually thickened soups with flour, resulting in less than appetizing lumps). But then our breakfast unit enlightened me. A gravy is relatively easy and made up of three parts: fat (usually butter), flour, and milk. All variables can be changed (and seasonings such as garlic salt and pepper are a fantastic way to flavor gravy), but it really boils down to three steps: melting the butter, adding in the flour, and adding the milk once the flour and butter have combined.

Biscuits are also easy to make. The secret? One is buttermilk: the reaction of baking soda and buttermilk (consisting of one cup of milk with one tablespoon of an acid such as lemon juice) cause the biscuits to rise dramatically. Another secret is rolling: don’t use a rolling pin. Kneading lightly by hand and lightly smooshing the dough down is the secret to the perfect flaky layers of a biscuit. Finally, shape: though it may sound controversial, do not use a round biscuit cutter. It flattens the biscuit so that flaky layers are unattainable and rolling leftover dough back into a ball wastes dough and time. Instead, shape your dough in a rectangle and—here comes the controversial part—cut into squares! It saves both time and dough. For extra sheen and flavor, brush with butter or honey butter for the perfect biscuit. No Pillsbury dough boy needed here.

Country Gravy

3 tbsp. butter (Other fat sources can be used for flavor; this could include turkey fat or beef fat)

3 tbsp. flour (preferably white) 2
c. whole or 2% milk
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic salt (add based on preference)
Note: Sausage can be added to this recipe.

Warm saucepan on medium heat. Add butter, and allow to melt (but not completely melted). Add flour and whisk together.

Allow mixture to cook 2-3 minutes (doing so allows for the flour to cook out). Add milk and whisk until smooth (mixture should be thick). Add salt and pepper and serve!

(With credit to The Butcher’s Wife at

Tools Needed

-Small saucepan


Buttermilk Biscuits

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. Baking powder

½ tsp. Baking soda

½ tsp. Salt

¼ c. shortening (usually butter) (make sure shortening is cold and kept cold)

¾ c. buttermilk (milk w/ ¾ tbsp. lemon juice)

2 tbsp. butter, melted (optional, for brushing on) (honey can be added for honey butter)

*For garlic herb biscuits:

Add in 1 c. shredded cheddar, 1 ¼ tsp. Garlic powder, 1 ¼ tsp. Dried parsley flakes, and 1 ½ tsp. Onion powder

Preheat oven 450 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Cut in shortening and mix until shortening is pea-sized (a food processor can be used to accomplish this). Drizzle in buttermilk and stir with a fork. Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Form the dough into a rectangle. Cut into squares, and line biscuits on the pan shoulder to shoulder. Brush with butter (if desired).

Put into the oven and allow to bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Take the pan out and allow to cool. Serve.

(With credit to the Taste of Home Cookbook)

Tools Needed

-Sheet pan

-Parchment paper

-Knife or crumb scraper



-Liquid/solid measuring tools

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier    , The Crazy Plant Lady

Looking for another aspect of your life in which to interject the holiday spirit? Try the Christmas cactus! It’s actually a pretty low-maintenance plant. Other cacti in the Cactaceae family also have holiday names: the Easter cacti and the Thanksgiving (or crab) cacti. Because of our instantaneous consumer market, people are more likely to end up buying a Thanksgiving cacti or a hybrid of the Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti, which blooms much faster.

Holiday Cacti — How Can You Tell the Difference?

These cacti bloom according to the season. If it blooms in fall and perks up when you watch the Macy’s Day Parade, it is a Thanksgiving cactus. A Christmas cactus has rounded or scalloped “teeth” or edges with lots of ornaments on them (not true, but you could deck out your cactus with holiday garland and the like, if you want!). Thanksgiving cactus’ leaves are jagged. The Easter cactus has very rounded edges, which are centralized on the leaf.

Contain Your Excitement

While you may think you need to put such an exotic plant in a greenhouse, this cactus thrives indoors. They are great container plants; however, to maintain the nutrients of the soil, replanting every two years is necessary.

The perfect planter pot can honestly be anything (well, not Fido, for example), as long as the plant can receive sunlight and the soil can be well-drained. You can get a traditional pot, or maybe an unused bin or something funky—like a cookie tin—to make a statement. I almost bought a high heel as a planter, but a child’s galosh could hold more soil. When looking for a container, make sure there is enough volume for the cactus to expand as it grows (usually about 3-5 inches deep, with a width of 1-2 feet). If you want to save money on containers, thrift stores such as Goodwill come in handy.

The Dirt on the Christmas Cactus

Rocks and pebbles at the bottom of the container help drain the soil so there isn’t an excess of water. This can cause fungal problems for the root of the plant, leading to a slew of horrifying diseases. Believe me, when examining a bunch of gardening books, there are always a disease-troubleshooting section with everything from aphid attacks to powdery mildew. After that, I was way too overprotective of my plants, leading to the death of a zucchini plant. If you’re cheap like me, you can find small pebbles at the dollar store. Mulch also helps to drain soil, and you can find it for free at any playground (just kidding. Please do not use mulch from public property. While it causes so many splinters and cuts, it still provides some safety for children.). You can find mulch (and most likely stones) at local hardware, gardening, and feed stores.

Soil exclusively for succulents can also be found at home improvement stores. This specialty soil is sensitive to the shallow root structures of the plant. If you don’t want to fork over your paycheck for a few measly pounds of dirt, you can make your own (for dirt cheap! Pardon the pun) by mixing pebbles or pea gravel with potting soil.

Here Comes the Sun

Grow your cactus friend in indirect sunlight, in cooler temperatures (50-55 degrees is enough to coax out beautiful blooms). Make sure that your plant doesn’t get too little sunlight. It will still grow, but the leaves will become weak and the blooms not as apparent. I know that I mentioned earlier that it would be pretty easy to grow, but there are a lot of conditions to be met to ensure your little buddy keeps thriving. Hang the plant up to encourage more growth. It can make the room look more tropical, which is great in such a dreary winter season.

I Say Let It Grow!!

Now, you can rest on your laurels and wait for it to grow! In terms of watering, keep the soil moist. You can check this by sticking your finger into the dirt. Your plant will start to shrivel up and, well, you guessed it, die, when it is too dry. I recommend watering it once every two days, more or less, depending on the condition the soil is when you touch it. Remember, over-watering causes fungal problems, so don’t soak the soil to the bottom. As long as the upper layer of soil (about ¼ inch) is moist (NOT soaked), your plant should stay healthy. Cut off the dead leaves to encourage new growth.

It can take up to eight months for flowers to bloom, but colors come in purple, red, orange, white, pink, and yellow—red or pink is the most common.

The best part of this plant is that it’s the gift that keeps on giving (perfect for the Christmas season, eh?). A mere clipping will expand significantly.

As much work as it sounds like to keep this plant alive, it is well worth it in the end. While you can’t garden outside in such cold and dreary conditions, you can take the party inside and liven up your life!

Merry Christmas (Cactus)!

*Credit to Better Homes and Gardens, Encyclopedia Britannica, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, The Spruce, and Martha Stewart.

For kids and parents alike

The Ripple Effect

by Anita DiGregory

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the LORD said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Kings 19:9, 11-13)

This remains one of my absolute favorite passages from the Bible.  Imagine this guy, Elijah, hanging out in this cave waiting for God.  He’s probably a bit nervous, right?  The wind rips by so powerfully that it is destroying the rocks around him, but God is not in the wind. Then a violent earthquake shakes the very ground he stands on, but that’s not God. Next, a massive fire with all its heat and destruction erupts, but that is not God either.  It is all very noisy and confusing and even scary. It sounds almost like the year we’ve all had: 2020, the year of epidemic, violence, isolation, turbulence, earthquakes, hurricanes…and let’s not forget those murder hornets. Do you almost feel like a marathon runner, winded and exhausted as a result of the long, hard run, but pushing yourself because that finish line is oh so close?

Here we are about to embark on, traditionally, the busiest season of the year. But this year, many of the shows, parties, parades, and get-togethers have been altered. Even shopping is different due to the many protocols in place. 

The truth is, we have had very little control over most of what 2020 has presented to us; but, we do have control over what we can do for ourselves, our families, and even the world in these last few weeks of the year.

Have you ever visited a still body of water with your children? My children love throwing rocks into the water. They love the “plops” they make and the ripple of waves those little rocks send out far across the water. Those little rocks have the ability to create a reverberation clear across the pond, and what started as small little circles spreads out larger and larger…the bigger the rock, the bigger the “plop,” the bigger the ripple effect.

Addressing a crowd, Saint Pope John Paul II once remarked, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the world in which we live.” We have the ability to create a huge ripple effect…the ability to make a true and lasting difference, one family at a time. 

In these last weeks, when the outside world seems so loud and out of control, let’s strive for quiet simplicity. While the world seems full of anger and hate, let’s make it our mission to love well.  In this time of preparation and waiting, let’s make it a time of light and hope. In a year when the overwhelming theme has been “everything is different,” we can make a difference.

What can we do? We can draw our loved ones close. We can read them classic Christmas stories or watch our family-favorite movies in front of the fire. We can send Christmas cards to military members and first responders, thanking them for their dedication, service, and sacrifice. We can deliver care packages to isolated family members. Together, we can donate to community food banks and toy drives. We can pray, and sacrifice, and hope, and love. And those tiny ripples can make larger ones that can be farther reaching than we can even imagine.

So, in this year of pandemic, let’s remember what that famous doctor taught us. Let’s consider that last scene in the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. After stripping the poor Who’s of all their food, presents, toys, decorations, and musical instruments, the Grinch (played this year by the mean ole’ year 2020), anxiously awaiting the villagers’ sorrow, is instead dumbfounded by their joyful celebration.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling: how could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! And he puzzled three hours, ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

So, my dear friend, I wish you the merriest of Christmases, a blessed last few weeks of the year, and the best new year. And, if the loudness and confusion of the world start to rob you of your peace, remember in your quiet, peaceful, loving way, you CAN make a difference…and in that stillness listen carefully because God IS in the whisper.

by Christine Maccabee 

The Facts About   Christmas Cactus

I always wondered why my two “Christmas Cacti” plants bloomed way before Christmas. The mystery was cleared up when I went on Google and discovered that mine are of another species, commonly known as the Thanksgiving Cactus. They do indeed bloom before and during Thanksgiving. Perhaps, you have one, too.

There is a slight difference between the two species, just two of the six species in the genus Schlumbergera. Mine, the Thanksgiving or crab cacti, have small flattened serrated stem segments. These are not leaves, though many of us thought they were. These cacti are leafless, which is a common feature of all the genus Schlumbergera (okay, now let’s all repeat that name seven times, then you’ll never forget it, right?! )

Christmas Cati bloom around Christmas in the Northern hemisphere, but the blooms are just like the other species. Its stem segments are roundish, not flat. It is also a hybrid. How do I know all this? Well, I went to an expert, Melissa Petruzello (another name to memorize). She is the assistant editor on plants and environmental science for the Encyclopedia Britannica, so I am indebted to her and Britanicca for clearing up this mystery!

Christmas cacti mostly grow in the Brazilian rainforest on trees, shrubs, or shady places (just one of a million reasons we have to save the rainforest…hear that, Brazil?). Over many years, my habit has been to put my tropical house plants outside in the shade of an arbor that my father made before he died. That way, they get the benefit of rain and weather, which is their natural habitat. Of course, I water them during dry periods, but pretty much all my plants are independent and take next to no care once outside.

Of course, the ceremony of bringing my potted rainforest into the house for the winter is always a wonderful challenge as I work to find appropriate places for them all. Some need repotting, and this summer, my avacoda tree grew way over my head!

Yes, life with house plants is always interesting. The diversity is astounding. They are fun to care for during the winter, and they have the extra benefit of purifying my air, much like the rainforest is needed to purify and replenish Earth’s air—all the more reason to control the destruction of rainforests by beef, palm oil, lumber, and other consumeristic interests. I can pretty much live without all of that, and I definitely do not purchase foods with palm oil ingredients—just one small contribution on my part.

To end, I will say that you are very fortunate if you have one or two beautiful Shlumbergera in your home. I am always astounded by their colorful blooms, which add so much beauty to my world, to our world.

May your world, our world, Earth’s forests, continue to be so blessed for centuries to come.  

Christine’s Thanksgiving Cacti

Thanksgiving Cactus come in a range of colors, mostly pastels, including red, pink, peach, purple, orange, or white, and typically bloom at Thanksgiving.