Tuesday, February 3, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- January 28, 2015

Weather folks name hurricanes, and I’ve heard old-timers talk about the Great Flood of ’49. In my mind, I name the big illnesses we’ve battled as a family.

The first really bad one was the Stomach Bug of ’05 that brought all of us to our knees at the same time. Then there was what I’m convinced was the Great Swine Flu of ‘09-- the only time my children have suffered from earaches.

Now the younger children here have just finished with the Great Lingering Cold of the New Year which actually began in the old year. The noses were only a bit stuffy, but the cough was the kicker. It just didn’t want to go away. It hid out for a few days and then popped up in the middle of the night, waking child, Mom, and Dad, who ventured out of bed to find the cough medicine. One child would wake one night, another the next, and so on. It was tiring and annoying, and I’m glad it seems to be gone for good. 

Just as an impending weather event like a blizzard or hurricane calls for a trip to town for bread and toilet paper, the first signs of feeling under the weather in our house requires a few specialized sickness-fighting items.

First up, appropriate food and drink-- namely chicken soup, orange juice, and tea. Our family prefers homemade chicken noodle soup, but because we live in the real world, we usually feast on dehydrated chicken noodle soup that comes in a box. Orange juice and warm herbal teas provide more liquid nourishment and add all sorts of vitamins and other good things with unproven health benefits.

Second, we must make the house smell like sick people live and cough here. Such atmosphere is partially achieved by running the humidifiers--both hot air and cool mist ones in case one actually works better than the other; there’s so much conflicting advice out there! 

However, nothing says “sickroom” better than an overpowering smell of Vick’s VapoRub. We make sure to slather it all over everybody with a sniffle-- on chests, backs, and necks. Even the feet get coated in the eucalyptus-menthol-camphor goo and covered by socks.

Last, we have to attempt to keep the little balls of energy as immobilized as possible so they can get their rest. Hours of quiet play while lying down and Mother reading favorite classic books is ideal. Of course, a week or so with six sick children is not ideal, and since Mom is usually worn out, cartoons take the place of a good educational read. However, if the goal is to keep the children still, then television accomplishes it perfectly.

Does any of it work? I don’t know, but it does make us feel like we’re doing something for the ones we love. When it’s one of those sicknesses that just takes time, the kids feel comforted by the routine.

And the cartoons. Don’t forget the cartoons.

Recently I’ve shared a bit about the holiday season and now about the cold and flu season, but I’ve completely neglected the other important cold-weather season in our home-- hunting season. This year our oldest joined Dad in the great outdoors and soon learned perhaps the most important hunting lesson of all. To quote a dear friend, “Hunting ain’t getting!”

Sylvia from Hagerstown passed along a recipe I’ll share with all those hunters out there who were successful. If you are not a hunter, beef can be substituted for venison. 

Goulash Soup

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 pounds venison or lean beef, cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green or red sweet pepper, chopped
1-1 ½ qts. beef stock ( made with bouillon cubes or beef base)
1 qt. canned whole or stewed tomatoes
½ cup red wine
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/3 cup ketchup
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. marjoram
½ tsp. garlic powder (can use fresh if desired and add with onions)

Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Cook onions and meat until meat is slightly browned.Season with paprika, mustard, marjoram, and garlic and stir for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add hot beef stock and simmer for ½ hour.

Add chopped tomatoes with juice, and stir in wine, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Add more seasonings to taste. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer ½ hour more. For a thicker soup, thicken with cornstarch, for “soupy” soup add more beef stock.

Makes a hearty main dish served over noodles.

*This post has been shared at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth for The Art of Home-Making Mondays.


  1. This had me laughing! We had our first bout of croup this year with our Little Miss, having her wake in the middle of the night coughing was pretty scary, but by the time it got that bad at least it didn't last much longer. I preferred canned soup because it tastes like my childhood, but we also have the powdered stuff that reminds him of his.

    1. That's the exact same way it is around here. The boxed stuff is from my husband's childhood. I had the can, but I don't particularly like either, so I defer.

      Croup can be scary. Normally we take care of it in-house, but a couple of years ago I was driving my little one to the emergency room in the middle of the night, hoping she wasn't choking to death behind me in the carseat. Sickness with little ones is never fun; that's ironic because I always liked (sort of) when I was sick and could stay home from school.

  2. Vicks really does spell out "sick zone" like nothing else! Clever little post :)

  3. Thank you. I'm just happy to have a respite from that kind of sickness. .. . now I'm just waiting for the first trimester nausea to pass.