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Delicious Peanut Butter Cookies (Flourless)

December 12th, 2006 by Halli

My neighbor, Marion, brought this recipe over, along with some of the wonderful cookies. You’ll never miss the flour, and if you have celiac disease, you’ll be delighted. Give them a try!

½ c margarine
½ c white sugar
1 c brown sugar
3 eggs
1 18-oz jar chunky peanut butter
¼ t vanilla
¾ t corn syrup

Combine the above ingredients. Stir in:

4 ½ c oatmeal (old fashioned is great)
2 t baking soda
¼ t salt
1 c chocolate chips or other variety
1 c additional nuts if desired

Drop by scoop or spoonful onto baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes.

Posted in Recipes | No Comments »

Holiday Miracle?

December 11th, 2006 by Halli

Will wonders never cease? This (Christmas?) miracle is, in fact, two-fold. Read on.

Miracle #1: The Lewiston Tribune actually printed an editorial critical of outgoing Democrat Idaho Schools Superintendent Marilyn Howard, who dished out year-end bonuses (paid with our hard-earned tax dollars) to her favorite employees totaling $120,000.

Howard’s largesse is actually not uncommon among state department heads, but her timing is certainly questionable. Economizing in various areas supposedly generated the dollars used, so Howard apparently felt entitled to spend them as she wished.

What tired phrase do you hear every 10 minutes from Democrats all across the country? “It’s for the children!”, of course. Not one feature of this term-end “gift” will help “the children” in any way.

Is it possible Howard wished to buy her party and herself some loyalty among State Education Department employees as she departs? Especially in light of the fact that her successor is Republican Tom Luna? That would certainly help the children.

Miracle #2: The Idaho Falls newspaper actually reprinted this editorial, critical of a Democrat, Monday, December 11, 2006, .

Miracles do still happen, especially at Christmas!

Posted in Education, Idaho Falls Issues, Idaho Legislature, Taxes | 2 Comments »

Open Your Heart, Wherever You Live

December 11th, 2006 by Halli

Especially at this time of the year, we enjoy promoting and participating in various charitable efforts. On the Trish and Halli Show, we frequently invited our listeners to call in and volunteer to provide gifts for needy children and their families. Folks who listened to our show are the kindest, most generous anywhere!

Without that forum we are not sponsoring such a drive this year. However, we encourage you, our readers, to find a worthy charity in your area, and to contribute as generously as possible. This private, unforced giving is how all charity work should be managed!

It’s not difficult to find a place to give. Perhaps your church sponsors a “Secret Santa” program. Maybe your office group is conducting a food drive. You might have a neighbor who has hit hard times this year. If you live in the Idaho Falls area you may wish to participate in the Bonneville County Republican Women diaper drive.

And have you ever taken the time to notice what it does to your heart when you give? Find out by dropping loose change in the Salvation Army kettle next time you pass one.

So, if you haven’t already, please step outside yourself a little, involve your children, and make Christmas brighter for someone less fortunate. Whether the gift is small or large, open your heart and give!

Posted in General, Idaho Falls Issues, Taxes | No Comments »

Guest Post: Principled

December 11th, 2006 by Halli

By Ed “The Lone Gunman” Cook

Can we quantify the results of one individual compromising their principles? Perhaps we can probe our hearts even deeper and ask, what is it that allows, or causes anyone to accept such compromises? The answers to these questions reveal two opposing natures within each of us, and we have the inalienable right to choose our own path. Our eternal nature carries an innate duty to return to God in honor, and thus it is that the wars wage on at many levels to destroy the inalienable agency which allows us the power to choose where our hearts will reside.

One cannot avoid influencing others. However, the realm our influence draws others toward carries a responsibility for which we will eventually answer to our Maker. Our agency was granted that we could be held accountable for the principles we follow and the paths we choose.

There are principles which govern love, integrity, wisdom, honesty, freedom, success, happiness, faith, hope, charity, etc. As I conversed with a friend the other day, we enlightened one another concerning how broad the influence of principles were on society, and our focus shifted to the very basic premise of what was required for adherence to any principle.

Trish & Halli had an open line the other day and were discussing “what was the greatest threat to our society?” There were some good responses. As I contemplated the topic, my analysis rested on eternal principles. It has become increasingly apparent to me that one cannot enjoy a principle of freedom, for example, if they are either unwilling, or unable to abide by the principles which create and sustain that freedom.

A deeper examination reveals a reality. Someone who has not chosen to abide within freedoms’ principles cannot comprehend freedom or even begin to appreciate its divine influence. They may make what seem to be sound defenses for their perceptions of freedom, or even inspire others to conclude they carry deep convictions for the freedoms they possess, but the reality is that the benefits of freedom, or any other eternal principle, cannot come without adherence to laws governing the reception of those benefits.

The question for the day is this: “Is it possible for the Republicans, RINOs, liberals, or communists to adhere to eternal principles?” That is a trick question because it is possible, but doing so is not possible through deceit. Principles are governed by law. Each of us has our own agency. Anyone who supports a misleading belief, or makes a policy decision through deceitful means, is compromising eternal principles, and will be held accountable for the intentions of their hearts and the influence they manifest in others’ lives. For instance, how can a politician hold personal beliefs that God will condemn those who abort children, and then say it is acceptable allowing others to put themselves in a compromised position where they will be condemned by God? It is hypocritical regardless of whether one holds others’ or their own conduct to any differing standards that selectively ignore eternal principles. If one sincerely believes they will be held accountable before God for their personal conduct, they will also be held accountable for their conduct which enables others to be destroyed and condemned before God. This is as true for lawmakers as it is for anyone else. In fact, the greatest threats in this world occur when any individual chooses to ignore eternal principles, because, inevitably, someone else will be influenced to compromise their principles, and the heavens weep.

Posted in General, Guest Posts, Politics in General | 2 Comments »

No Santa Claus?

December 8th, 2006 by Halli

Friend Sarah Peck forwarded this, and it struck a chord. Perhaps it will touch you as well!

Adventure With Grandma

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered. “Even dummies know that!”

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. “No Santa Claus!” she snorted. “Ridiculous! Don’t believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”

“Go? Go where, Grandma?” I asked. I hadn’t even finished my second world-famous, cinnamon bun. “Where” turned out to be Kerby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. “Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it. I’ll wait for you in the car.” Then she turned and walked out of Kerby’s.

I was only eight years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten- dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough, and he didn’t have a coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. “Is this a Christmas present for someone?” the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. “Yes,” I replied shyly. “It’s …. for Bobby.” The nice lady smiled at me. I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) and wrote, “To Bobby, From Santa Claus” on it — Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa’s helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.” I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker’s bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous.

Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the tag tucked inside: $19.95.

(Note: Although I did not write this story, cursory online research never turned up a legal copyright holder. If you own the copyright and would like this post removed, please let us know via the Contact page.)

Posted in General | No Comments »

School District Consolidation: The Time has Come

December 7th, 2006 by Halli

A much-despised discussion may arise again in the 2007 Idaho Legislature regarding school district consolidation. The legislature will be forced to examine school appropriations and spending in new ways as it determines the best method for replacing the Maintenance and Operations (M & O) funds that will no longer come from local property tax. And one of the most obvious ways to save money and get more dollars “into the classroom” is to cut down on gross overspending for district administration.

Idaho has over 100 distinct school districts, with a total enrollment of 261,907 students for the fall of 2006. Our neighboring state, Utah, with an enrollment of 510,012 students has only 40 districts. in other words, Utah has less than half the number of district administrations serving almost twice the number of students.

It must be possible to actually calculate the cost of our expensive habit of supporting school districts in every little crossroad of the state, but I do not have the facts to do so. It doesn’t take much brainpower, however, to understand that millions of dollars are wasted in duplication of services that could be saved by consolidating districts.

The most obvious expense of district administration is the salary paid to the superintendent. A survey of the state reveals that most district superintendents earn around $100,000 per year, plus sometimes ridiculously generous benefits valued at many $1,000’s more. Certainly schools and districts need some sort of administrative oversight, but how much is too much? Remember the days when the school principal was also a classroom teacher? How many business managers, curriculum coordinators and assistant superintendents do we need per student?

The Idaho Association of School Administrators is anxious to defend their own existence. But the fact of the matter is that very few administrators are required to see that buildings are in repair, teachers show up to teach, and children are safe in school.

The time for school district consolidation is looming large in our near future.

Posted in Education, Idaho Falls Issues, Idaho Legislature, Taxes | No Comments »

Tax Shift Part IV

December 6th, 2006 by Halli

Whatever other education issues the Idaho legislature tackles in the 2007 session, it must deal with replacing the schools maintenance and operations (M & O) funds that were removed from the property tax in the August special session called by Governor Risch. In that session, the legislature raised the sales tax by 20% (from 5% to 6%) to make up the difference in this large tax shift. The result was relief to property owners throughout the state.

However, it remains for the legislature to actually appropriate the money from the general fund and send it to the school districts. Veteran lawmakers say that determining what each school district receives cannot be based on what they would have received from local property taxes. The state must devise a method of assessing the actual budgets of each school district.

Apparently some of the smaller school districts, which must spend far more dollars per student than the larger districts, are already quite concerned about the amount they will receive from the legislature. They fear they will experience a drop in operating funds.

Legislators who actually do the math and track the state tax revenues say the sales tax increase was not really needed to give property tax relief, as there was already a large surplus in the general fund. In addition, the legislature has placed $100 million in an Education Stabilization Fund to prevent shortfalls in the future. Since there is a large surplus in the general fund already, let’s hope the dollars raised by the sales tax increase are also placed in the Stabilization Fund.

By the way, some may be under the mistaken impression that M & O funds are earmarked for very specific needs. This is not true. Those M & O dollars may be spent for anything and everything from school buildings, teacher salaries, new carpet, additional school counselors, to textbooks, and employee bonuses, to name just a few items. What school district patron, or legislator, for that matter, can possibly keep track of it all?

The opportunity to make school districts more accountable for their spending may arrive as the legislature tackles the sticky issue of funding the school M & O. And possibly the issue of school district consolidation will reappear.

Posted in Education, Idaho Legislature, Taxes | No Comments »

Idaho Prison Issues

December 5th, 2006 by Halli

Idaho locks up its criminals at a higher rate than most surrounding states. Some point to this statistic as the basis for our relatively low crime rate. (And some fear we’ll all be behind bars if the rate continues unchecked.) Others are of the opinion that too many non-violent criminals are sent to prison, causing gross over-crowding, warehousing of prisoners in other states, and huge increases in spending for the Idaho Department of Correction. Still others point out that mentally ill and/or drug addicted prisoners get no treatment and are usually back in the correction system shortly after their release. Of course, taxpayers are the ones ultimately left holding the bill.

For many years, former State Senator Stan Hawkins pointed out that prison over-crowding could be reduced by offering alternatives to prison for non-violent offenders, and treatment programs for those who need it. Reliable studies show success for both types of programs in lowering recidivism, or repeat offenses. Senator Hawkins also pointed out the impropriety of Idaho contracting for a privately owned and operated prison, and has since been proven right, but that’s a topic for another post.

As the 2007 Legislative session looms, Representative JoAn Wood of Rigby is now proposing a substance abuse and mental health treatment facility be built in Bonneville County. The center and its programs would be designed to give prisoners the treatment they need instead of just locking them up – time after time. The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office is poised to join in the effort, dedicating part of their planned county jail expansion to the program. The facility is expected to cost the state about $2 million, while treating 120 inmates in a 4-year program would cost around $6 million.

Though a legislative interim committee is on board with the plan, bringing it to fruition will require approval by the full legislature, and the requisite appropriations. It’s not the first time such ideas have been floated. Will the legislature listen to Rep. Wood, when it refused to hear Senator Hawkins on the subject? I won’t hold my breath.

Posted in Education, Idaho Legislature | No Comments »

Rocky Road Brownies

December 5th, 2006 by Halli

These are yummy!

Brownies:
1 c butter
4 oz (4 squares) unsw baking chocolate
1 ½ c sugar
1 c flour
3 eggs
1 ½ t vanilla
½ c chopped salted peanuts

Topping:
¼ c butter
1 3-oz pkg cream cheese
1 oz (1 square) unsw chocolate
¼ c milk
2 ¾ c powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
2 c mini marshmallows
1 c salted peanuts

Brownies: Place butter and chocolate in saucepan and heat over medium burner until melted, stirring constantly. Mix in sugar, flour, eggs, and vanilla, beating well. Stir in chopped peanuts. Spread in greased 9” X 13” pan. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes (brownies will begin to pull away from sides of pans when they’re done). Cool in pan

Topping: In saucepan, combine butter, cream cheese, chocolate and milk. Heat over medium burner until smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from burner. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in mini marshmallows and peanuts. Immediately spread over cooled brownies. Finish cooling in pan. Cut into about four dozen bars, and if there are any left, store in refrigerator.

Posted in Recipes | No Comments »

Idahoans for Excellence in Education

December 5th, 2006 by Halli

Idahoans for Excellence in Education (IEE) is a group of individuals who have teamed up to form a PAC (political action committee) to improve education in Idaho. The teachers’ union, the Idaho Education Association, exists solely to represent teachers and other school employees. The IEE represents Idaho parents, school children and taxpayers, and seeks to bring about greater choice and accountability in public education.

Members include former Senator Darrel Diede, superintendent of the Caldwell School District for 20 years, and several others who have worked in public education. Dr. John T. Wenders is another notable member. He is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Idaho, and displays special expertise in comparing facts and figures. He is particularly gifted at revealing true cause-and-effect relationships (or the lack thereof) between such factors as education spending and school/student performance.

The IEE has been especially interested in supporting charter schools and the legislation that created and controls them. I highly recommend this organization as a source of truth and perspective on Idaho education issues. Do visit their website, and lend a helping hand if you can.

Posted in Education, Idaho Legislature | 1 Comment »

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