Archive for January, 2009

darker2aMy maternal grandmother was a no nonsense woman.  That came from raising seven children and being able to hone the day’s activities down to what was necessary.  Her cooking was basic, hearty and delicious.  She always had a large vegetable garden along with apple, pear and peach trees.  Summer meant lots of canning jars being filled.  It also meant Rhubarb Meringue Pie made with rhubarb from her garden and fresh eggs from her chickens.

To remember Bapka, Mom would make at least one Rhubarb Meringue Pie in the summer.  Now I make one to remember Bapka and Mom.


Heat your oven to 375 degrees

Line a pie pan with raw pie crust, then brush the bottom with a small amount of egg white.   Mom said it keeps the crust from getting soggy.

Cut unpeeled rhubarb stalks into ½” to ¾” pieces.

You’ll need 4 to 5 cups of cut up rhubarb depending on the size of your pie pan.

Separate 3 to 4 eggs.   The yolks are for the pie,  the whites are for the meringue.

¾  cup sugar.  Use more sugar if you want your pie less tart.

2  tablespoons cornstarch

Toss the cut up rhubarb with the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch, then spoon the mixture into the pie shell.  Place the pie into the oven and bake until the rhubarb is fork tender and the custard is bubbly.  Cover the pie with foil if the rhubarb starts to brown  and isn’t tender enough.

As the rhubarb becomes tender, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks with a dash of Cream of Tartar and a heaping tablespoon of powdered sugar for each egg white.

Remove the pie from the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and spoon the meringue over the top of the hot pie.  The hot pie will cook the meringue from the bottom.  Put the pie back into oven.  The lower temperature cooks the meringue through and gently browns  the top.  You may have to turn the pie to evenly brown the top.

When the meringue is golden brown, remove the pie from the oven and cool the pie completely before cutting.   John Hink

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once2Once Upon A Time down on old Skyflower Farm there lived a very old storyteller, older than some of the flowers in her garden, who gathered children and animals around to hear stories she read, stories she remembered, stories she created, and stories she got confused, but everybody loved to hear them. She too loved to hear them. Children, and sometimes animals, asked for their favorite but would always have to help the old storyteller stay focused. They didn’t mind at all.

Now Clarion County artist Mary Hamilton has made a print of the old storyteller at work. Perhaps she used a mirror to draw the linoleum block print, 12 x 14″, matted 16 x 20″, in 9 colors, signed, in an edition of 55, priced $60. Contact the artist directly at skyflower@penn.com

Here is a childhood memory your grown children will not leave behind. Nor will your children’s children. Start a tradition that will recall stories about you for many once upon a time for real. Charles Marlin

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Film reviewers are lower on the food chain than book reviewers so don’t hold this against me.  For $5 I got a small box of popcorn and saw Gran Torino.

The script was adequate.  The directing was good.  His dog, his barber, and his female counterpart next door kept pace with him.  Add his pissy granddaughter to the list.  That leaves Clint Eastwood.

I have heard this is his last acting part, so if I was on speaking terms with him I would say good idea.  The odds are against you or I living long enough for you to do a better job.  My $5 was well spent, and I don’t want to feel cheated next time.  Charles Marlin

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Robert Macfarlane, author of The Wild Places, is a strangly obsessed man who happens to also know how to write lean, fresh travelogue.  Yes, I agree it is hard for an obsessed English writer to stand ahead of the crowd but I think he does.  He went searching for all the wild places left in the British Isles, and often found them in places you would never consider or find without a guide.

You may have felt on rare occasion an unnamed urge to get away from everything constraining and responsible to someplace closer to the forces of life before the forces were called life.  If so there is a little spark in you that is going to respond well to Macfarlane’s obsession and talent.  My idea of roughing it is stopping at a motel without a bar, so I am not part of his reader demographics.  No problem.  An obsessive English writer standing out front is bound to surprise people.  Charles Marlin

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Embossed on the cover in small type is Council on Foundations, and below that in larger type is Guide To Philanthropic Resources.  Inside are all the community foundation connections you are likely to need except Clarion County Community Foundation but that one you know by heart. 

Once you print out a copy from the Council you need to select a spot to keep it that is easy to reach and will not be covered up by other stuff, then note the spot on the inside cover so that you remind yourself to put it back in its rightful spot.  There are resources and organizations listed to help you not reinvent the gears of community foundations, thus giving you time to work on a new color scheme.  Charles Marlin

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Five of the yokozuna sumo foundations of Ohio and Pennsylvania have issued a report The Recession’s Impact On The Safety Net In Ohio And Pennsylvania hoping to capture the attention of the new administration as well as Congress.  The five are The Cleveland Foundation, The Columbus Foundation, The Philadelphia Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation and Toledo Community Foundation.  There must have been a mutual understanding that Akron Community Foundation, Erie Community Foundation and The Youngstown Foundation were not of their stature.  Nothing said aloud you understand.

This material is freshly dated January 10, 2009.  The recession has dramatically increased human needs in our region.  First-time users are fraying an already fatigued and inadequate safety net for the young and old, under employed and unemployed.

They outline “a jump in first-time user demand on food banks ranging from 9 – 46% across all five urban areas.”  They found a “decreased capacity of food banks to respond to the needs given the 5.5% increase in food costs, 50% increase in distribution costs, 8% decrease in donated food and funding cuts.”  Other factors are an “increase in individuals receiving food stamps in the range of 4 – 15%, and “3 – 5% increased participation in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program.”

Requests for help and assistance to avoid eviction and foreclosure are increasing by 22% and 50%.  Requests for utility assistance are up 25% and 75% in some areas.

The waiting list for child care subsidy has doubled in Pennsylvania to 7,000 and growning.

Requests for transportation assistance are up from 38% to 70%.  This means that in every area of need they studied the requests for help are overwhelming.  Neither the community foundations nor the entire nonprofit sector can give more than a thin of soup of help.  This is deprivation on a large scale.

The report estimates that the five urban areas will need $1.79 billion in supplemental funding over the next two years.  The report adds, “This figure does not include services to meet historic ‘chronic’ needs.”  If the government does not radically change the future, the future will change us.  The report “estimates that by 2010, there could be as many as 1.1 million persons unemployed across Pennsylvania and Ohio.”  Add to that 1.1 million the families of the unemployed, the under employed and families, and the elderly with limited income you have the population of a third world country under massive stress.

We instantly know that dealing with this ever growing crisis is beyond what an individual can do.  It is beyond what a state government can handle.  It may prove to be too much even for the Federal government.  As the crisis is rushing toward us and the resolution is not in sight, this does not mean that individuals are helpless or that paralysis is acceptable.  If we have a loaf and fish we need to share.  We need to let random acts of kindness become routine.  When others need us most is when we can live the richest part of our lives.  Charles Marlin

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One can only hope that Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War does not carry a prophetic title.  He tells his personal experience as a foreign correspondent covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 through 2008.  Not a history but rather a personal memoir, the book is more challenging to a reader’s ideas of what can or should be done than any history or policy book is likely to achieve.  The book is honest, direct, relevant, and compassionate where a reader would expect cynicism.

If the reader wants to understand the returning veterans and the war zone populations left behind, this book will face the reader in the right direction.  Filkins’ sense of the enormity of the conflict and his personal honesty prevent him from offering any answers or pushing any agenda.  An honest book about war is worth reading.  Charles Marlin

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