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‘Birthday girl’ was delighted

Life in a retirement home stays quite interesting.

Recently, Ruth, one of the oldest residents, turned 99. Her daughter provided a beautiful cake, which was brought to the table after our evening meal.

The lights were dimmed, and the candles were all aglow. Ruth’s face was a sight to behold – a light of wonder sparkling in her lovely eyes, and a marvelous smile lighting up her face.

I think everyone there felt privileged to be included in this momentous occasion.



Church’s 175th anniversary was memorable

I attended an anniversary celebration many years ago that was a memorable occasion for me. It was the 175th anniversary of my church.

I was in charge of Bible school that summer, and the kids learned several songs for the celebration.

So many people showed up, we had to set up folding chairs so everyone had a place to sit.

It was inspiring to hear the former ministers and their families tell stories of when they attended the church. We also had special musical performances by members of the church, and, of course, I was very proud of the children when they sang. They sounded like angels.

One elderly member of the church stood at the lectern to tell the history of the church, and she was so short, we couldn’t even see her. It didn’t matter, though. She kept right on talking, as though everyone could see her perfectly.

The ladies of the church made a huge picnic lunch for everyone who attended that special celebration – more than 150 people.

Now we’re planning the 200th anniversary event, which takes place this year.

Parker, Pa.


My great-grandmother Ruth was only 4 feet 9 inches tall, so we called her “Little Granny.” She taught her only daughter, Marie, as well as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren the British etiquette for “taking tea.” As we enjoyed Tea Time with our granny, she would entertain us with the latest news from England.

Although my little granny has been gone for 21 years now, we have continued the tradition of Tea Time. Whenever someone has a birthday – and sometimes for no reason at all – we have a tea party. We exchange lovely fine china tea cups that we search for all year long with specific persons in mind.

All of our tea parties are fun, and they are a wonderful way to keep alive the memories and traditions of a small woman who was a prayer warrior, a missionary and an excellent teacher full of patience and love.

My favorite tea party was in 2002, when my granddaughter, Whitney, was 3 years old, and her first cousin, Meagan, was 2. This was their first official tea party.

At the tea party, the girls prepared their own table and used their own china to serve each other. Part of the Tea Time tradition is wearing outlandish hats, heels and “tea party” dresses. My family (ladies only) had so much fun watching the little ones as they gave their all to maintain the perfect British etiquette. The girls enjoy being together whenever possible. Whitney lives with her parents and older brother in Cordele, Ga., and Meagan lives with her parents and baby sister in Hattiesburg, Miss.

We sent a photo to the Hattiesburg American newspaper, knowing that Little Granny would have been very proud of her great-great-granddaughters. Both girls enjoyed the taste of all the teas served that day, as well as the fine pastries. We adults enjoyed ourselves, too.

What a wonderful time we had being proper and lapsing into silliness and laughter-filled bonding and sharing.

Blairsville, Ga.


Airplane memories

Some people love to fly, some don’t like it at all, and others don’t care one way or the other. Some people fly all the time, some have only flown once, and others have never been on an airplane. Some see flying as fun, while others see it simply as the fastest way to travel.

Do you enjoy flying? How old were you the first time you went up in an airplane? Where did you go? What do you remember most about your first airplane ride? Did anything exciting happen on your flight – maybe you ran into an old friend, or perhaps you made a new friend? Tell us your stories about your first or most memorable airplane ride.

Send your letters by June 15, 2007, to: Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.


Add a simple side dish to your favorite entrée for a quick, delicious meal

Entertaining at home may call for extra work, but the key to a successful and stress-free gathering is to keep it simple and think “side dishes.”

Side dishes are a great way to show your versatility and shine in the kitchen. Prepare a meal with a simple roast or store-bought entree, such as a glazed ham or roasted turkey, and you’ve got a terrific spread that will keep your guests coming back for more.

For more festive and flavorful recipes, visit www.CampbellsKitchen.com and www.SwansonBroth.com.


Three-Cheese Pasta Bake

This crowd-pleaser calls for only six ingredients and can be prepared in about 25 minutes.

1 can (10.75 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
8 ounces shredded two-cheese blend OR any flavor shredded cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups rotini, cooked and drained

Heat oven to 400°F.

In a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish, combine soup, cheeses, milk and pepper. Stir in rotini. Bake for 20 minutes, or until casserole is hot. Yields 4 servings.


Creamy Green Beans

This is a quick and easy version of a holiday classic, and it’s perfect for any time of the year.

1 can (10.75 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Generous dash of pepper
3 cups frozen cut green beans
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Combine soup, milk, soy sauce, garlic powder, pepper and green beans in a saucepan; heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Garnish with almond slices. Yields 6 servings.


Broth Simmered Rice

Using broth instead of water makes for a simple and flavorful rice dish.

1 3/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat broth to a boil. Stir in rice; reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Yields 4 servings.

Editor’s Note: To make Florentine Simmered Rice, add 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning to broth. Stir in 1 cup chopped spinach with rice. Stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese just before serving. Serve with additional cheese.


Broccoli ’n’ Cheese Casserole

This delicious side dish is a great way to get youngsters to eat veggies.

1 can (10.75 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 bag (16 oz.) frozen broccoli florets, thawed (about 4 cups)
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 teaspoons butter, melted

Heat oven to 350°F.

Combine soup, milk, mustard, broccoli and cheese in a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and butter; sprinkle over casserole. Bake for 30 minutes, or until casserole is hot. Yields 6 servings.


Heavenly Sweet Potatoes

This sweet potato side dish goes perfectly with ham or turkey.

Vegetable cooking spray
1 can (40 oz.) cut sweet potatoes in heavy syrup, drained
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray a 1 1/2-quart casserole with vegetable cooking spray; set aside.

Combine potatoes, cinnamon and ginger in a 3-quart bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until potatoes are fluffy and almost smooth. Stir in broth and beat until well-mixed.

Spoon sweet potato mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle marshmallows over the top and bake for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are hot and marshmallows are golden brown. Yields 8 servings.


Basil & Garlic Potatoes

Bake up an attractive, delicious side dish using broth and an herbed mixture with sliced potatoes. This dish goes perfectly with grilled or baked chicken.

11 medium potatoes, thinly sliced, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced, divided
2 teaspoons crushed dried basil leaves, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
1 can (14 oz.) chicken broth

Heat oven to 350°F.

In a shallow, 3-quart baking dish, layer half of the potatoes, garlic, basil and pepper. Repeat layers. Pour broth over all.

Bake for 1 hour, or until potatoes are tender. Yields 12 servings.


Roasted Asparagus with Lemon and Goat Cheese

A tangy and tasty dish that’s perfect for using spring’s first stalks of asparagus.

Vegetable cooking spray
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon lemon grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Heat oven to 425°F. Spray a 17-by-11-inch roasting pan or shallow baking sheet with cooking spray.

Stir asparagus and oil in prepared pan. Season with pepper; add broth.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until asparagus is fork-tender, stirring once. Top with cheese, lemon peel and lemon juice. Yields 6 servings.


Squash Casserole

It takes only about an hour to whip together and bake this delicious yellow squash dish.

3 cups cornbread stuffing
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 can (10.75 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
2 small yellow squash, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 small zucchini, shredded (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, combine stuffing and butter. Take out 1/2 cup stuffing mixture and set aside for topping. Spoon remaining stuffing mixture into a shallow, 11-by-8-by-2-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine soup, sour cream, squash, zucchini, carrot and cheese. Spread vegetable mixture over stuffing mixture in dish.

Sprinkle top with reserved stuffing mixture. Bake for 40 minutes, or until casserole is hot and topping is golden. Yields 6 servings.


Swiss Vegetable Bake

This colorful vegetable combination in a savory cream sauce and topped with Swiss cheese and fried onion rings is a hearty and satisfying side dish.

1 can (26 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 bags (16 oz. each) frozen vegetable combination (broccoli, cauliflower and carrots), thawed in microwave on high for about 5 minutes
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided
2 2/3 cups French fried onions, divided

Heat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the soup, sour cream and pepper. Stir in vegetable combination. Add 1 1/2 cups cheese; mix well. Gently stir in half of the fried onions, mixing well.

Spoon mixture into a shallow, 3-quart baking dish. Cover and bake for 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Stir.

Sprinkle remaining cheese and fried onions over the top. Return to oven, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes. Yields 12 servings.


Together with God

When my two older brothers were teenagers in the 1950s, my parents would rent the Odd Fellow’s Hall on Main Street for $10 and throw a sock hop for them and their friends. Ten dollars was a fortune at the time, but it was a sacrifice they gladly gave to provide a safe event for the teenagers.

I had the best time ever, even though I was only 9. We’d get there an hour before the party was scheduled to start, so we could set up chairs and tables, decorate with streamers, and prepare hot dogs and bottles of ice cold soda.

I enjoyed watching the girls arrive in their party dresses, all poofed out like balloons from the layers of crinolines.

One of my brother’s friends hadn’t had his growth spurt yet, so he was the same height as me, and he often asked me to dance. It was magical for me. I felt so grown up dancing with a high-school boy.

Those dances at the Odd Fellow’s Hall are some of my happiest memories.

Father, thank You for all those happy moments that give us memories to reflect on for the rest of our lives. May we always find joy in life’s simple pleasures. And bless the parents who make sacrifices for their children’s happiness and safety. Amen.

D. Susan Rutz


A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

It was about 1989 when my Uncle Pete bought a videocassette recorder. It was the first one anyone in our family had ever had. He brought it to one of our get-togethers and spent the entire day collecting video of the whole family.

At the time, his taping antics were a little annoying. I would have never guessed how much that videotape would mean to me – and my family – until some of the people dearest to my heart passed away.

The day Uncle Pete shot the videotape was the first and last time our entire family would gather together for a remarkable family celebration.

My aunts passed away in the following years, and the once delightful children grew into indifferent teenagers. Our family slowly broke off, and each individual family held their holidays at separate households.

Uncle Pete’s videotape that day captured my grandmother at her best. It was almost 10 years later that Grandma passed away, leaving me desperate to hear her voice and remember her every move.

Watching Grandma on that videotape, listening to her laugh and seeing her smile, brought me – and the rest of my family – more comfort than I could ever have imagined.

Past get-togethers and celebrations that have been captured on film or videotape often turn into some of our most beloved footage. They serve as reminders of the fun times we’ve shared with loved ones.

As you make your way to parties and celebrations this summer, keep in mind that time spent with the people you love often become your most precious memories.

So don’t hide from the camera – or be annoyed by it. Someday, somebody will be glad your photo or video was captured, so they can treasure it forever.

Kate Marchbanks