Contributed by RL It starts out early and seems to get earlier every week. Of course you have to warm up the car to help defrost the windows, in this cold winter weather, which means you have to go outside an extra time in the cold. The steering wheel is cold so you have to wear gloves that your hands don’t turn blue, then numb, so you cannot turn the car when it’s time to turn. Where is that ice scraper anyway, a hot mug of chocolate sure helps both the hands and the inside on these mornings as I get this ice off the windows of the car. ( As you get ready to pull out, the neighbor comes grinding over the hill with his lights on bright sending light snow up off the road onto the windshield. I hope the wipers are not frozen down; I mutter to myself, as I try to move the snow off and get a smear of ice across my field of vision. Off I go into the dark watching the tail lights of my neighbor racing down the road as I try and stay on track to get to work on time. Suddenly he slams on his brakes and barely stops in time to miss the 6 head of deer bounding across the road in single file. ( I am sure glad he beat me out the driveway today! My heart is not pounding near as bad as it did the other day when the small herd of deer did the exact same thing to me, only bounding in the other direction from the barns. You cannot blame the little buggers; they are only after the apples on the trees and on the ground in the yard of the vacant house just down the street from us.  After the snow falls it gets a little harder for them to get food, they don’t have the convenience of a nice apple pie sitting in the refrigerator waiting for me to come home tonight, a perk left over from the weekend, or was it a cherry pie?  Anyway it is always a fine art to stop at the stop sign on the end of the road, where the road meets the highway, as it has snowed and the plows have not been out. ( Fortunately there is not very much traffic at this time leading into town but in about 20 minutes it will pick up and get a little crazy. Once on the main road to town it is a piece of cake except for the road construction on the bridges midway to town. Of course the light is red as I approach and they have a construction worker standing in the middle of the road, so it looks like it is going to take a while, which means I am going to be late for work. Just another early morning commute, I sure hope that the elk and moose are behaving themselves and not venturing onto the road near town. ( Of course the days seem longer in the winter probably due to the fact it’s cold and usually overcast.  But we all know that daylight is around for a shorter time during the winter months than in the summer time. So maybe that is why time seems to drag during the winter because you cannot go snowboarding or skiing every day, or can you? (I am hoping some of you are that rare breed of independent individuals who have worked hard and are now enjoying the fruits of that labor.) But none the less at the end of the work day we still have to come home and eat. One of the easiest ways to have a hot meal ready when we arrive home is to cook that meal in a crock pot or slow cooker. Always a meal that warms the heart in the cold is a good hardy stew whether it is beef, chicken, pork or a good old- fashion mulligan stew. ( We don’t have to scavenge for the ingredients, like they did in days of yore when the hobo roamed the rails looking for work, you can just grab some of those food items that you have in your food storage area that you got from Rainy Day Foods. Items like canned meat (you may want to combine some of those meats to give an extra little flavor like beef and chicken) adding a few cups of vegetable stew blend that you have been wanting to try for a while, ¾ cup tomato powder, ½ cup black beans, ¾ cup freeze- dried corn, 2 cups of broth made from beef or chicken bouillon, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, ½ teaspoon garlic granules, 1 teaspoon real salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, add water and let cook. If you find that the stew needs to be thickened you can add a tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken and of course if this is a true mulligan stew these proportions will vary for each batch and of course you will be able to add whatever other ingredients you wish to give it that true hobo experience. Then instead of dreaming of the commute to work maybe you could dream of jumping the rails and touring the country, not quite like the hobo’s of old, but in the comfort of a modern  passenger car and see the country as can only be seen by train. ‘Till next time RL (