ELKHORN -- This month, as people in need turn to the WC Resource Center and Food Pantry in Elkhorn to pick up groceries, many will get a bit of holiday cheer, too -- in the form of a handcrafted Christmas ornament.
This is the fourth year that Lake Geneva artist Pam Ring has created ornaments to be distributed to WC Food Pantry customers. Ring has made 200 ornaments each year, although this year the count went up to 204. She said Geneva Lake Arts Foundation members also contributed some, bringing the total number of ornaments handed out to about 230.
Ring and her husband, Ray, a retired certified public accountant and playwright, purchased their home four years ago through Sal Dimiceli Jr. and soon got to know Dimiceli’s father, founder of the nonprofit charity, The Time Is Now to Help.
"Pam contacted The Time is Now and said she had over 200 ornaments she’d like to give to the children," said Sal Dimiceli Sr., who thought the food pantry would be an ideal place to distribute them.
"You see these children coming in to the pantry who are often quite bewildered," he said. "It’s nice to see if they do come there, they get something like a Christmas ornament. They look forward to it every year, if in fact they’re still in the condition of needing food.
"When I go into homes and see the children, they say, ‘Oh, see the Christmas ornament I got from the food pantry.’ They have a look of delight on their faces. They’re happy. It’s the spark of Christmas and something special that they receive."
Dimiceli marveled at Ring’s efforts.
"Over 900 ornaments that this woman has made, by hand, each one of them," he said. "Pam is another one of those people who just wants to make a difference in others’ lives, and all of us together can do that."
The pantry, which moved into larger quarters in Elkhorn at the beginning of 2015, serves some 600 families each month, according to its director, Jim Drescher.
"People don’t realize it, but poverty is prevalent in Walworth County," Pam Ring said.
"Everyone has to pitch in and do something to help if they can," she said. "If you have a talent and you can use it in some way to help someone, you should do that. Some day you may need some help and you’re going to hope that somebody can help you."
Her ornaments are whimsical, like a chunky cinnamon stick reindeer, complete with a red pom-pom nose, google eyes, chenille antlers and a tiny knit scarf.
She’s used premade pieces but personalizes them with her own touches, like adding a scrap of lace and hand-painted words, like "Naughty or Nice" or "Happy Holidays" to a flat, wooden stocking. She’s topped popsicle stick snowmen with button eyes and a cap cut from the fingertip of a glove.
"We have enough (fingerless gloves) to run several productions of ‘Oliver,’" joked her husband.
All the materials she uses for ornaments are kid-proof and kid-friendly -- felt, wood and foam, but no glass -- and generally made to be handled.
While Ring keeps a stash of materials on hand, she also shops arts and crafts stores for items.
The project takes her a few months, so she starts creating the ornaments in summer.
"When you go into a craft store in June and ask, ‘Where’s your Christmas department?’ they look at you like you have two heads," she said. "I’m smart now. I overbuy so that I have something to start with in June."
Ring pays for the cost of the materials herself.
She’s gotten a couple of cards from people thanking her for the ornaments.
"After the first year, (Pam) got some feedback from the people who were running the food pantry," Ray Ring said. "They said this was really nice because a lot of these kids didn’t have anything to give their parents or their grandparents, and they used the ornament to give as a Christmas gift."
Pam Ring is a retired marketing director for an East Coast-based retailer, but she’s had an artistic bent since childhood.
A Michigan native, she moved frequently during her childhood because of her father’s job.
"Our average stay was about 2 1/2 years, and it was hard to make friends because then I had to leave," she said. "I decided to do artwork because it was portable and I could do it by myself."
Art continues to imbue her life, from the collage classes she teaches each Wednesday at the GLAF gallery, to her business cards, each one affixed with an original tiny collage.
Primarily a self-taught artist, Ring has worked in watercolors and oils, but prefers collage.
"It’s the ultimate green art," she said. "I like the idea of picking something up off the street and giving it a special place.
"I work small. I don’t do sofa art. If I were to look at a big canvas and somebody said, ‘Fill it,’ I’d probably fill it with a lot of small pieces."
The WC Food Pantry isn’t the only organization to benefit from her art. She’s donated some of her work for fundraising at the Geneva Lake Conservancy and Special Methods In Learning Equine Skills, a therapeutic riding facility near Darien. She also teaches art at Arbor Village, an assisted living residence in Lake Geneva.
Ring remembers her mother often making items for church bazaars.
"My mother and father instilled in me charity and kindness always," she said.
"I would encourage people if they don’t do art to do something else -- even if they want to sit and read a book to someone.
"Money is nice. And if I had money -- tons and tons of it -- I would give money. But I don’t have tons and tons of it. And sometimes there are other things that bring happiness, like a little decoration. Those are things that are important, too."
LAKE GENEVA -- Will a drone be landing under your Christmas tree this year? If so, you’re not alone: The Federal Aviation Administration estimates 1 million of the unmanned aerial vehicles will be given as gifts this holiday season.
As a highly sought after gift-gadget that drones have become for the hobbyist, they also come with an ever-hovering cloud of regulations and controversy. Existing guidelines already place drones at a 400-foot ceiling and mandate that they cannot be flown within three miles of an airport or landing strip. After hearing suggestions from the aviation industry, the FAA issued a new policy last week requiring all to register.
EAGLE -- It’s the people around the table who are the most important during the holidays, and the tie that binds them together often is reflected in the food served.
A blend of old and new traditions add continuity to family gatherings. The old traditions remind us of the past and those who have passed, while the new traditions propel us forward as we welcome friends and new members to the family.
In this season of good wishes, a special variety of kindness has broken out in some of the communities we cover with our CSI Media newspapers.
I first noticed it earlier this month in a Facebook post from the Rockton Police Department. One of our papers, the Stateline News, covers the village located just over the border in Illinois.
The post showed a photo of a Starbucks gift card with the now familiar hashtag #bluelivesmatter, which began on Twitter in support of those who serve in law enforcement.
Well, the cookie baking has begun and there are so many good recipes coming my way I have to share these, sent in by friends and readers of this column. I’m going to try them all, especially the highly recommended eggnog cookies.
— This recipe starts with a cooked custard, eliminating any danger from raw eggs.
Makes 6 cups
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
2 cups whipping cream or 2 cups half-and-half
1-1⁄2 tsps. vanilla extract
1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. ground nutmeg
Use a saucepan or stockpot large enough to hold 2 quarts.
In saucepan, beat together the eggs and sugar until smooth.
Stir in 2 cups milk.
Cook over medium low heat, whisking or stirring frequently.
Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon and reaches 160 F on a food thermometer.
Remove from heat.
Slowly add the 2 cups whipping cream or half-and-half while whisking together until smooth.
Add vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and combine until incorporated.
Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled —several hours or overnight.
Serve garnished with your choice of toppings: whipped cream, chocolate curls, maraschino cherries, cinnamon sticks or peppermint sticks.
Brandy, rum, whiskey or flavored liqueur may be added before serving if desired.
— Doris Johnson, a dairy farmer, says she makes her own eggnog using eggs from her chickens. “Sometimes I’ll use duck eggs if they’re still laying,” she explains. “But the real reason I make the eggnog is to make these cookies.”
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup eggnog
1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
4 to 5 Tbsps. eggnog
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease cookie sheet and set aside.
To make cookies: In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars until fluffy. Add egg yolks, eggnog and vanilla, continue beating until creamy. Add flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Mix until well combined.
Roll into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes until lightly browned on bottom. Let cool on wire racks.
To make frosting: Cream butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat until combined. Add eggnog, nutmeg and cinnamon. Beat for three minutes until smooth. Frost cooled cookies and sprinkle nutmeg over the frosting if desired.
Chocolate rum balls
3-1/4 cups crushed vanilla wafers
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts
3 Tbsps. corn syrup
1/2 cup rum
In a large bowl, stir together the crushed vanilla wafers, powdered sugar, cocoa and nuts. Blend in corn syrup and rum.
Shape into 1-inch balls and roll in additional powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container for several days to develop the flavor. Roll again in powdered sugar before serving.
— Lebkuchen or Pfefferkuchen is a traditional German Christmas treat, somewhat resembling gingerbread. There are many variations of this cookie. Some are iced with a powdered sugar glaze and some have chocolate; most are decorated with almonds. Often, these are made using cookie molds and these can be quite large.
Debbie writes, “I brought this recipe over from Germany almost 20 years ago. It has molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, honey and brown sugar in it. This is one of my favorite memories of Germany at Christmastime.”
Makes 6 dozen cookies
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/3 cup diced candied citron
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup powdered sugar
In a medium saucepan, stir together the honey and molasses. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar, egg, lemon juice and lemon zest. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. Add the molasses mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the citron and hazelnuts. Cover dough and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease cookie sheets. Using a small amount of dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into small rectangles and place them 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until no imprint remains when touched lightly. Brush the icing over the cookies while they are still hot and quickly remove them to wire cooling racks. Store in airtight container with an orange or apple for a few days to mellow.
To make the icing: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat to 235 F or the soft ball stage. Remove from heat and stir in the powdered sugar. If icing becomes sugary while brushing cookies, reheat slightly, adding a little water.
WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- The crescendo of an orchestra can be as thrilling as the climax in a blockbuster movie. More often than not, the orchestra makes the movie, setting the mood, pacing and sensational scenes. It’s only through the combined efforts of the entire orchestra that the music happens. The beginnings of those musical moments start much like a well-written concerto, in a classroom.
At a time when school districts across the nation are tightening their budgets, art and music programs are feeling the pinch. Additionally, there is more competition than ever for students’ time, with sports, extracurricular activities, jobs and, of course, social activities.
Christmas tree decorations and wreath making are underway in December 2015 at Old World Wisconsin. Photos by Terry Mayer/staff.
STATELINE NEWS -- Dealing with a chronic illness or the death of a loved one is perhaps the most difficult thing a family can face, especially during the holidays.
But a variety of community organizations offer programs and services designed to help families get through the holiday season.
WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- For years, Julie Supernaw has seen compassion kindled in young people.
Now she’s channeling it.
The holiday season can be a time to worry about shopping, baking, decorating, wrapping and a never-ending to-do list.
However, the holidays also can be a time to enjoy the beauty of the season with decorated Christmas trees, lighted houses and storefronts, the aroma of hot chocolate and, of course, Santa Claus greeting children as they scurry to meet the jolly old elf.
If you’re looking for a way to bolster your holiday spirit, there’s plenty of seasonal events to enjoy. Here are our top 15 holiday events in the Stateline area:
220B Commerce Ct., Elkhorn, WI 53121| 262.728.3424
Main office hours: Monday - Friday 8am to 5pm
CSI Media, LLC. All rights reserved.