Lifestyles

From My Perspective

WE WILL NOT FORGET

by Robert  L. Heichberger

This is that time of the  year,  and  Memorial Day was a date  we  will not forget. Many of us recall the words of John F. Kennedy when he said “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” We remember JFK and we remember the thousands of men and women who have given so unselfishly for their Country. We will not forget on this Memorial Day or any day for that matter, the greatness of those who have and are now serving with such noble valor and committed virtue.

We pay grateful tribute to our American veterans and to all of our current armed service and civilian personnel who are in the valiant service of our Country. The story of America has been written by the selfless and noble deeds of hardworking and dedicated men and women dedicated to liberty and justice in a free society. Our American Veterans, current uniform and non-uniformed Personnel are truly endemic of that ranking. We extol them for their dedication to our homeland and liberty. Their noble service is endemic of human Exceptionalism.

Today, the United States stands as a beacon of hope for all humanity. Our nation’s experiment as a republic has been guarded and ennobled by our veterans’ and civilians’ service. George Washington said, “the willingness which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were Treated and Appreciated by their nation.” George Washington said it well.

Often, we take for granted the freedoms we enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of those lost in service. This is a time to remember. For this is a national debt that can only be truly repaid by individual Americans. By honoring the nation’s war dead, we preserve their memory and thus memorialize their service and sacrifice.

Over the course of our history, some 42 million Americans have served–and well over one million have given the supreme sacrifice–so that we and future generations of Americans might live in freedom. We are the beneficiaries of their courage, their sacrifice and their dedication, and so are countless of freedom loving people around the world.

In the current and past century alone, through two world wars and the long, tense struggles of the Cold War, and on the front lines of battle in various parts of the world, men and women have risked their lives. They risked all they had to protect U.S. interests, assist our allies, and promote peace and safety. They fought our enemies on foreign shores, at sea and in the air to preserve freedom. They had no second thoughts as to what had to be done. Ronald Reagan said it well, “No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.” Thanks to their extraordinary record of brilliant service.

President Kennedy once said, “Democracy is never a final achievement. It is a call to untiring effort, to continual sacrifice and to the willingness, if necessary, to die in its defense.” We give thanks to the veterans and to the current members of our Armed Forces and willing civilians for their valiant dedication. Whether serving on bases and in ports at home or deployed across the globe, they have endured hardship and danger to protect our Nation and to assist freedom loving people around the world. Their deeds of noble commitment and personal valor bind us in our past, inspire us in the present, and strengthen us to meet the challenges for a hopeful and bountiful future. They are an inspiration and their valor WE WILL NOT FORGET. And that is how I see it FROM MY PERSPECTIVE.

 

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger  is a resident of Gowanda and  Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at SUNY Fredonia

 


From My Perspective

THE SPRING TIME SYMPHONY

by Robert  L. Heichberger

Our region in western New York is a very special place! With its magnificent rolling hills, expansive beautiful valleys, and majestic lake plains….our region stands out as a wonderland of nature. With our four seasons of the year, there is something very special about our region… be it summer, fall, winter and spring. We have now entered that bountifully flourishing season which follows the cold winter weather. The following poem- which I have written- sets the downbeat, tone, score, pitch, and cadence…figuratively speaking of course… for the appreciation of the wonderfully dynamic season we call “Spring”.

NATURE’S ORCHESTRA

Natures’ orchestra  assembled for the downbeat

For the spring season  to begin with the score.

Each orchestral section was  readied with precision

For the harmony of spring- sounds  all  galore!,

 

The leaves on trees have been clearly  awakened

As sap returned from their  roots to their prime.

And the leafy lace on trees made their appearance

Dressed for the melodious awakening of   spring time.

The  spring flowers sprouted from their winter-like nesting

With purple crocus and white snowdrops all  sublime.

And daffodils and yellow forsythia  were dressed  in  royal colors

As they awaited the downbeat for  budding time.

 

The return of the birds from their winter vacation-land

We anxiously awaited, the first sign that they’re here.

As we listened for their chirping at morning’s sunrise

And their symphonic melodies of musical cheer.

 

The farmers and gardeners  anxiously awaited

To turn the soil over, having it ready… and in prime.

For the season’s planting of new spring-time  seedlings

With the conductor’s downbeat signaling “it’s time”.

 

This is the score for the concert we  have  awaited

For the orchestra  to begin its colorful composition.

For the notes were there… and  the downbeat was given

For their  magnificent spring-time symphonic rendition.

——RLH

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and Distinguished Service Professor at SUNY Fredonia


A Point of View: A SNAP SHOT  OF SMALL TOWN,  USA

by Robert  L. Heichberger
Some may  call it “Living at the time of the Walton’s”. I call it “Living NOW in our small town”. And this is the way it is…
Nothing embodies America more than the sedate settings of small towns across America. Indeed, western New York is fortunate to have a rich variety of small cities, hamlets, and villages across this region of ours. You will find small towns in the bends of flowing creeks, near glistening lake waters, and at the base of green meadows and tree covered hillsides. These small settlements blend perfectly into the rural  landscape. They add immeasurably to the character of this beautiful scenic environment. Such is the scene in which my wife and I have lived from the time of each of our childhood days. My wife Elaine, lived her childhood days in Springbrook town of Elma, and graduated from East Aurora High School. I am a native of the Boston/Colden area and attended a one-room school house ( Boston # 7) for eight years and then high school at G.I. in Springville. My wife and I have lived in East Aurora, then Fredonia, and now reside in Gowanda. I have been associated with the State University of New York at Fredonia for over fifty-six years and my wife taught  for many years  in the area schools: Holland, East Aurora, Forestville,   and Gowanda.  Each of these towns is truly endemic of the beauty and charm of Small Town, USA.
A “bird’s eye” view of these towns suggest that a ten minute walk in one direction,  will  lead  one to downtown Main Street; and a twenty minute walk in the other direction, will take you past meadows, woods, and beautiful farm lands. Directions given to an occasional visitor will usually give as a reference point the traffic light, a stop sign, or the Village bank. And, when you go for a walk or exercise, others will pull over and ask if you want a ride. In fact, living in a small town… is somewhat like living in a large family. Teachers in the local school system will often remember when they taught your parents. And Friday night football games are where people go to visit and socialize as well as to root on the home team. Almost everybody knows everyone. Knowing how to “do things” is like “currency” here. The nice part about living in a small town, when you don’t know how to do something, someone you know does know how to do it; and people are eager to help.
Join with me as we catch a glimpse of several recent personal small town experiences: I took my car to the local auto repair center for inspection. The owner of the center noticed that I had mistakenly affixed my registration form from our other vehicle on this vehicle and vice versa. He offered to carefully remove the stickers and affix them properly. He did so without charge. Then, there was the time I was walking to the post office, about a mile from home, and an unexpected downpour of rain occurred. A very gracious resident of the Village came to her front door and offered me the use of her umbrella. Then again, there was the time when our local pharmacist took the time to call my wife to inform her her current prescription was running low and needed to be refilled; they also offered to deliver the medication to our home. I am reminded too, of the time when I went to our locally printing and  copying  center to have some printing done.  When  they finished the print job, I  discovered that I had  left my wallet at home. The owner suggested that I take the print job   with me and stop in next time I am downtown to pay for the work.  And, during the current  health  emergency of Covid-19, our thoughtful  neighbor calls us regularly to see if we are doing and to check to see if we need anything from the store.
During the Lenten season, a favorite of our family is fastnachts donuts. I inquired at our local supermarket bakery…no luck. But, the next morning, a full array of fastnachts were on display.
 Recently, on a very rainy day, I had  a problem with our hot water furnace, so I called our local plumber.  The plumber arrived within a  couple of hours. Expeditiously , he fixed the furnace problem.  In the course of his work, he noticed  rain water leaking into  the basement from an outside window well. Unknown to me and  on his own time, he went out and dug a bit of a trench to divert the rain water away from the house.  The leaking stopped  and the problem was resolved…at no cost to “yours truly”.
Several days ago,  I discovered that  my electric   air compressor was inoperable because of a broken part.  I went to our locally  owned  hardware store to purchase  a new compressor. They looked at my defective compressor and they said they thought they could fix it,  thus, saving me the expense of having to purchase a new one. They fixed it  perfectly at the cost of about 10 percent of  the cost of a new compressor, thus they sacrificed what they would have made with a new sale. Their loss,  was this writer’s  gain!
The local police and/or  the  village highway crew   will often patrol down our street at anytime day or night. If I happen to be outdoors at the time, the officer or highway personnel    will always give  a  broad neighborly  smile with a friendly greeting and  wave.
There is no doubt,  we live in  a great country!  The folks in its towns, farms, small cities, and villages  interact as a neighborly family  of a caring  and thoughtful people. Truly and daily… American Exceptionalism is warmly  and  genuinely  at work in Small  Town, USA.
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda  and  Distinguished Service Professor at SUNY Fredonia

How to clean when faced with a shortage of supplies

In light of concerns about COVID-19, various health organizations have issued specific instructions on how to maintain personal safety and cleanliness. These recommendations involve using common household products to sanitize homes, offices and public spaces. As people take such precautions, many are stocking up on extra essentials — resulting in shortages.
Everything from hand sanitizers to paper towels may be hard to find on grocery store shelves, leaving some to wonder what they can do to remain safe without sanitizers?
The Environmental Protection Agency states that coronaviruses are some of the easiest types of viruses to kill because they have an envelope around them that enables them to merge with other cells and infect them. If that protective coating can be disrupted, the virus can’t do its job. For those having trouble finding well-known cleaning agents, these alternatives may suffice.

Hot water and soap
The reason hand-washing is at the top of the list of sanitizing methods is because it is so effective at washing away viruses and bacteria. Friction from scrubbing with soap and water can help break the protective envelope, states the EPA. Soap and water can clean all surfaces in a home, especially when applying a little extra elbow grease.

Hydrogen peroxide
As people clear isopropyl (rubbing alcohol) off the shelves, do not discount hydrogen peroxide. The CDC says household hydrogen peroxide at 3 percent concentration can deactivate rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold, within six to eight minutes of contact. Coronavirus is easier to destroy than rhinovirus, so hydrogen peroxide may be effective at combatting that virus as well.
Natural items can be used for general cleaning, but have not been endorsed for use on COVID-19 disinfection. In lieu of shortages, white vinegar, baking soda pastes and citrus oils and juices could fill the void of chemically-based cleansers for other home tasks.


Homemade By Katy: Not a goodbye…

By Katy Wise

Two years ago, around the same time of year, a newspaper that was close to my heart shut its doors and I was drafting up a farewell article. Just minutes after I finished writing, I received a call asking me to change that piece and include that another paper was going to pick up my column.

It was an interesting thing, as I had already come to terms with the ‘Homemade by Katy’ chapter of my life being over, and then all of a sudden, the chapter got an alternate ending.

I am incredibly grateful to this paper for giving me a place to continue writing – which I love, but also to do something even more important to me, which is connecting with people.

To all of you who have sent warm wishes, or recipe reviews, to those of you who I met personally and immediately heard that you look forward to my column every week, thank you.
It was a pleasure getting to know you and getting to share the past six and a half years with you.

Some of you who know me and my family off of these pages, also know that my husband and I are actively involved in ministry and our church. While it may not be the only reason, it is time for us to give more attention to that part of our lives, which includes the time that I spend writing.

Which is exactly why this is not a proper goodbye. Our family will still be seen around Fredonia, making similar connections, and maybe even passing along recipes, who knows. I suspect there to still be some type of writing in the future, and I will willfully neglect to say that I would never write again.

I’ve learned to never say the word, ‘never,’ as life somehow has a way of turning around and asking you to do exactly that which you said you wouldn’t.

While we’ve decided that this isn’t a goodbye, I’d like to leave this time with sharing some things that I’ve learned over these past few years of writing, but not just on that topic. Real life, life with kids, life as a from-home writer, life as a human, really.

Now I also need to qualify everything I am about to say, by saying that I am absolutely, one hundred percent, not perfect. I’ve joked with my reading friends often that I am a struggling perfectionist.

Someone who is constantly learning that things do not need to be perfect in order to work. These are things I am working to attain, and we could say they’re on my to-do list. With that disclaimer, I’ll leave you to a list of tips for everyone.

‘Everyone,’ meaning that anyone could benefit from these things, and everyone is dealing with these things.

1. Everyone has a story. It matters little whether it is shared from printed pages or not. Everyone has unique experiences that have molded them into who they are today, and lessons that they have learned. We all have a thing or two that we could learn from someone else.

People who are older than us have so much wisdom to share. They’ve already lived the things that many of us are facing, and their experiences are not irrelevant to the world today. They are necessary and should be valued with far more respect than many give them.

2. Be kind to everyone. The interactions that we have with people are often just snapshots into their lives. We don’t always know at what time we came into it, and what the snapshot just before us looked like.

People all around us could be having the very best day or the very worst day of their life. Smile at everyone, hold the door, and take time to have a conversation and connect with people when you can.

This includes little kids too. Sometimes that kid in the store just needs a snack, and that mom just needs a nap. Everyone could use a little bit of mercy, and someday you’ll need it too.

3. Everyone is doing their best. When you’re looking for something to criticize, you will always find something, and odds are it’s none of your business. We should all live by the standard of, ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’

Social media is filled with people giving their opinions about everything under the sun. While that is somewhat what it’s for, many of the people who are being criticized are just doing what they know to do, and that doesn’t mean that they need us to tell them what to do.

Our only job is to do our best too. When you know better, do better.

So, I will leave you with these last little nuggets from Homemade by Katy. Friends, it has been my great honor to share some of these past few years, recipes, and experiences with you. Here’s to the future, and as always, thanks for reading and happy “not goodbye” from hbk!


Potato soup makes a filling meal

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Many Irish dishes focus on simple, fresh ingredients that can be purchased close to home. Potatoes long have been a staple of Irish cooking. Brought to Europe by Spanish explorers from the New World, the potato put an end to famine in regions of northern Europe, like Ireland. Smithsonian notes that, by the end of the 18th century, roughly 40 percent of the Irish ate no solid food other than potatoes. If that sounds like a boring diet, it’s good to note that all that was necessary to make potatoes desirable and more versatile was a little creativity.
Potato soup is one way to experiment with potatoes. There are many different takes on potato soup, but most classic Irish recipes feature potatoes, stock, leeks, and onions. But that does not mean potato soup can’t be enhanced by other ingredients, like those found in this recipe for “Potato, Escarole and Country Ham Soup” from “The Culinary Institute of America Book of Soups” (Lebhar-Friedman Books).

Potato, Escarole and Country Ham Soup
Makes 8 servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, diced (about 11⁄4 cups)
1 leek, white and light green parts minced (about 11⁄4 cups)
1 celery stalk, diced (about 1⁄2 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced (about 1⁄2 teaspoon)
1 quart chicken broth
2 yellow or white potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
1 sprig fresh or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups chopped escarole (about 8 ounces)
1 cup diced country ham
1⁄4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Heat the butter in a soup pot over low heat. Add the onion, leek, celery, and garlic; stir until they are evenly coated. Cover the pot and cook until the vegetables are tender and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the broth, potatoes and thyme. Simmer the soup until the potatoes are tender enough to mash easily, about 20 minutes.
Remove the thyme and discard. Puree the soup. Return the soup to the pot and bring to a simmer.
Add the escarole and diced ham and simmer, 12 to 15 minutes, or until all the ingredients are tender.
Season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup in heated bowls.
Tip: Country hams have an altogether different taste and texture from that of boiled hams. They have been cured for lengthy periods and have a unique salty, smoky taste. Ask your deli manager or butcher to help you find country ham or a suitable substitute.


Homemade By Katy: Encouraging Creativity

By Katy Wise

Art and crafts has always been one of my very favorite things to do since I was a small child. Even before we had children, I would often imagine spending time coloring and finger painting with my future kids.

Little kids especially, need time to sit down and put their concentration into something creative. It can be great quiet time for them, and it encourages using their imagination, while helping to work on dexterity and hand eye coordination.

Along with sparking that little creativity center in their brains, it can really spark some communication with their parents as well. I love sitting down with our kids while they draw or paint pictures and then hearing the summary of everything going on in that picture.

Honestly, sometimes I really need the explanation to understand what looks like scribbles.

Sometimes there is a backstory, and sometimes it’s just a doodle. But my personal favorites are the ones where our family is involved.

Our middle son has a habit of drawing elaborate little books during church, where our Pastor often makes a cameo. The illustrations and storyline are incredibly entertaining, and some of them are going to be kept for years to come.

There are plenty of different outlets and resources for kids to express themselves. Whether it’s on plain white paper, a coloring book, colored construction paper, watercolor paper, or even canvas.

Our personal favorites to use are finger paints and sponges, but we also use good old-fashioned crayons, watercolors, tub paint, play-doh, markers and colored pencils. Cookie cutters and paint are another great one, and while we are bringing up cookie cutters, cutting out and decorating cookies is also one of our favorite past times.

One of the best ways I have found to keep our kids entertained while I am making dinner, is to have them sit down with a bunch of paper and supplies and see what they come up with.

They chat happily, in between the quiet, tongue-out, concentration times. You know they are into it if they make that classic concentrating face.

This will keep them content and entertained while being near you while allowing you to get some work done.

Although I personally love creating and making a mess with little ones, I realize that not everyone does. If you want to start some creative time with someone little in your life, here are some tips to get you started.

Tips for creative play

Start small. If your baby is young and this is the first craft time you’re having, don’t expect them to love it, and don’t expect it to last long.

Our kids did not enjoy the feeling of wet squishy paint at all when they were babies. But after a couple times experimenting with it, and seeing that it all came off in the bath, they both love it.

If you see them getting frustrated, don’t make them keep playing. 10 minutes might be all they need, while older kids can be perfectly happy for an hour.

One thing they did love when they were little is those little fuzzy pom-poms. Sort them by color, glue them together, or create little creatures out of them.

Tub time. If you aren’t quite ready for the clean up that’s often involved, start off where you’re going to end up.

Specially made bath paints and crayons are easy to find, and some of them smell downright wonderful. Just be careful about the appetizing smell, babies and toddlers will want to eat them up!

If you can’t find bath paint or don’t wish to buy any, watercolors are also great for tub play, and clean up easily.

Just make sure that with any of these ideas, you wash them off your tub immediately so they don’t stain.

Prepare for messes. They are bound to happen. If you give your child paint, expect it to somehow, someway, end up on you too. It’s inevitable.

Buy washable everything. Crayola makes great washable paint that washes out just like it advertises. We had a slight mishap the other day and I was able to wipe the paint right off my son’s clothing with a cold wet washcloth without having to pretreat it or anything. Kudos to you, Crayola!

Make sure that you and your child are wearing something that you won’t cry about losing, just in case, and probably not white. And if possible, cover up with a smock or apron.

As always, thanks for reading! And happy crafting from HBK!


Take a Bite Out of Popular Pizza Styles

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Pizza is pizza, right? Not quite. This beloved cheese-and-sauce-crafted masterpiece is much more complex than fans may imagine. At its core, pizza consists of a crust, sauce and a cheese. But pizza can be crafted in myriad ways thanks to toppings and crust styles. But wait … there’s more. As it turns out, pizza, which TripSavvy notes is a $30 billion global industry, has many different incarnations.
Pizza was first introduced in North America in the late 1800s when thousands of Italian immigrants arrived. Nowadays pizza is part of just about everyone’s common vernacular and diet. CiCi’s, a popular pizza chain, found that one-third of pizza eaters eat pizza at least once a week. The following are some of the many different pizza types that can be enjoyed, and what makes them unique.
• Neapolitan: This is the original pizza that arrived in the 19th century from Italy, and the pizza from which all others have evolved. The dough is made from a specific type of flour, and the crust is thin, crunchy and baked in a wood-fired oven. Neapolitan will have minimal toppings. A scant amount of San Marzano tomato sauce, slices of buffalo mozzarella cheese and basil are all that’s needed.
• New York style: Most East coast pizza is considered New York style. Originating on the streets of New York City, this pie is exemplified by wide slices of a crunchy, pliable crust that is light on sauce but heavy on cheese.
• Chicago style: Also known as deep-dish, the Pizzeria Uno restaurant in Chicago developed the deep-dish pizza in the 1940s. The pizza is made in a pan similar to a large metal cake or pie pan, and the crust lines its entirety. Typically, the toppings are assembled upside-down, with cheese, vegetables and meats placed on the crust, and then tomato sauce as the final layer to help this pizza cook all the way through.
• Sicilian: This is a thick-crusted pizza with a pillowy dough and crunchy crust. The pizza is formed in a square pan. Oftentimes, the cheese is underneath the sauce to prevent the pie from becoming soggy. Some people refer to the Sicilian as a “square.” The famed L&B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn, NY, has its own unique take on the square that has been feeding fans for decades.
• St. Louis style: This pizza is a variation on New York style, but it’s made from a cracker-like crust with no yeast. In addition, Provel cheese replaces the mozzarella found on New York-style pizza. Provel is a cheese made by combining cheddar, mozzarella and provolone.
• Grandma style: A grandma pie is similar to Sicilian, but presents as a thinner, crunchier alternative. Fresh tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella often replace the more processed sauces and cheeses.
• California style: This pizza uses a New York-style dough but switches toppings to unusual and unique ingredients, like barbecue chicken.
Pizza will likely never fall out of favor. Thanks to the variations across the country, those who covet a slice have many different options at their disposal.

 


Homemade By Katy: Cherry Cheesecake Trifle

By Katy Wise

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A few weeks ago, we had started a theme along the lines of Valentine’s Day desserts and treats.

Last week was a no-baking necessary recipe for cheesecake that also incorporated chocolate, which seems to be a Valentine’s Day staple

Some of you may be saying, “Again with the cheesecake?!” and my answer to that would be, yes, again with the cheesecake.

It’s one of those desserts that holds the perfect balance of just sweet enough.

So while we just recently looked at a cheesecake recipe, you likely have not seen one like this before. Or at least, not too often.

Cheesecake in a trifle is one of those unexpected desserts that, while not the norm, there’s just something, ‘right,’ about it. It’s just fitting for the ingredients at hand.

This recipe is especially good for those who adore cheesecake, but who almost love the graham cracker crust more.

Does anyone else think the crust should be doubled in most recipes? I wholeheartedly do.

I present to you a cheesecake that has equal amounts of ingredients. Well, maybe not exactly precise as I can assure you that no kitchen scales were used in the makings of this dessert, but near equal.

We could call this the, ‘justice for graham cracker crust!’ cheesecake if we wanted to get passionate and unjustly excited about such things.

Although I could probably use the word, ‘cheesecake,’ at least five more times, I’m going to end it here, and allow you to judge for yourself.

As always, thanks for reading, and Happy Valentine’s Day from hbk!

Cherry Cheesecake Trifle

INGREDIENTS

2 blocks cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
4 C. whipped cream, homemade
2 cans, cherry pie filling
2 packs, graham crackers, finely crushed
½ C. granulated sugar
1 stick, butter, melted

1. Prepare whipped cream. If you don’t already have a recipe, this can easily be done using 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/3 – ½ cup of powdered sugar.

Beat using a whisk attachment on your stand mixer, or a handheld mixer, on medium speed for about 3-5 minutes or until the cream starts forming peaks.

2. Transfer whipped cream to another bowl, and using a flat beater, (whisk will also work but may take longer) mix the cream cheese, 3 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until perfectly smooth.

The best way to achieve this is by allowing the cream cheese adequate time to soften, about 3 hours or more.

3. Once the cream cheese is smooth, fold in the whipped cream, about 1 cup at a time until well blended and fluffy. Set Aside.

4. Crush graham crackers, then mix together well with melted butter and ½ cup of sugar. More sugar can be added to taste.

5. Layer graham cracker mixture, cheesecake mixture, and cherries in trifle bowl to your heart’s content.

Chill until serving. Yields 12-15 generous servings.


Homemade By Katy: Sheet Pan Garlic Herb Chicken

By Katy Wise

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It’s the time of year where many of us have made resolutions, and we’re looking for ways to stick to them. Your resolution may include better health, which essentially comes down to nutrition and lifestyle.

You may be trying to keep a cleaner house. Maybe your new lifestyle is about spending more time with loved ones, and less time on the tedious details of life.

Maybe, you have a similar mindset to the one I have. No resolution necessarily, just always pushing for more and better, adding goals as you see fit.

Rather than drastic changes, you can change things one step at a time, fixing and tweaking things as you see them, and ever improving the aspects of your daily life.

Whatever your outlook may be on this new year, I have a simple recipe that will help accomplish several of those tasks.

Something that hits the target of eating more vegetables and lean protein, but something that also gives you less dishes than your typical meal that includes both of those food groups.

The more diverse your meal is, the more dishes you seem to have, but diverse is precisely the goal when trying to eat a balanced diet.

I also want to put out a disclaimer that this is not the absolute healthiest recipe available. If you don’t want to eat potatoes or a serving of butter, you can absolutely make other substitutions.

I, however, have to get a nine year old, six year old, and four year old to eat this, so we’re keeping the potatoes.

This recipe, from CafeDelites.com, uses one sheet pan, and to make it even easier on the cleanup end, you can use parchment paper to drastically reduce your cleanup even further.

Easy cleanup and less prep time also gives way to less total time spent in the kitchen which makes more time for other things. Time that could be used for exercise if that’s part of your goal, or time for family, reading, various other things that need and warrant our attention.

Sometimes I think we over complicate meals and many of the other tasks in our lives. A complex meal is great if you genuinely enjoy cooking and have time for that, but don’t let some quest for perfection steal away from your peace and joy.

This is me taking a great big dose of my own advice. All the easy meals this year to ensure more time for more important endeavors.

The easy meals with the easy cleanup, but with all the veggies and protein that we need.

Hopefully this year provides us with an abundance of recipes along that line that can be shared here.

As always, thanks for reading and happy new year from hbk!
Sheet Pan Garlic Herb Chicken

INGREDIENTS

1/3 C.  low-sodium chicken broth or stock
1/4 C.  unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp.  finely chopped garlic
2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp.  salt, or more depending on preference
Fresh ground black pepper
4  boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. baby potatoes, peeled and quartered into 1-inch pieces
1 lb. green beans or asparagus

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, prepare pan with parchment paper, or lightly grease with oil.
Mix the butter, broth, garlic, parsley, thyme and rosemary together in a bowl.
Place chicken on baking sheet and arrange the potatoes all around the chicken. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the sauce over the chicken and potatoes, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Lightly spray all over with olive oil spray or cooking oil spray.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Carefully remove baking tray from the oven and turn over each chicken breast. Move the potatoes to one side and place the green beans around the chicken on the other side of the baking sheet. Pour the remaining garlic herb butter sauce over the beans, distributing well, then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through, and reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees or higher.
Broil for 2-3 additional minutes, until chicken is golden and potatoes crisp.
Sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs, optional. Serve immediately.

 


Homemade By Katy: Crockpot Hot Cocoa

By Katy Wise

It’s sledding season! We’re finally experiencing snow with temperatures that don’t hurt your face to go outside.

If you have little ones in your house or family, or if you just really like sledding, then you probably have plans to do this at least once this season.

Or maybe you’ll go ice skating, or walk through the Wal-Mart parking lot when it’s negative 10 degrees.

All of these occasions call for one thing; hot cocoa.

When you’re shivering and just need to warm up from being out in the cold, you’re going to want something warm.

A lot of people will go for tea or coffee, which may be considered by some to be the ‘adult’ choice.

Sometimes you just need to act like a kid, though. This is one of those times!

Does anyone remember that Campbell’s soup commercial with the snowman that melts down into a little bit as he sips on his chicken noodle soup?

That was some effective marketing.

I still think of that commercial, twenty years later, when coming in from being outside and feeling the need to defrost.

Something about that commercial always made me want that soup even though I didn’t like it.

I’m not saying that I want this article to make you want to have hot cocoa if you don’t like it.

I promise that was not the intention of my bringing up that old commercial.

There’s just something about it that perfectly sums up that feeling of warming up after being in the blustery outdoors.

Especially during January through February in Western New York.

Last weekend we had spent a bit of time outside. It honestly wasn’t even that long, it just happened to be during that windchill below zero degrees timeframe.

We needed something to warm up, and I had been wanting to try one of these simple recipes that I had seen floating around Pinterest.

After scouring Pinterest for a while, with no clear winner, I decided to make my own.

With a simple list of ingredients in simple measurements.

The nice thing about these kid of crockpot recipes is that you can always add a bit more to taste while they are in the crockpot.

The second wonderful thing about crockpot recipes is the smell. You can also smell things in the oven, but the crockpot makes that wonderful scent last all day.

This recipe is not very sweet, which makes it the perfect template for adding mix ins. Peanut butter, candy canes, caramel, peppermint extract, etc.

You can also substitute milk for a richer flavor, or add more liquid to serve more people.

Ingredients

1 c evaporated milk
5 c hot water
1/2 semi sweetened chocolate chips
1/2 unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 granulated sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Stir all ingredients together in the crockpot, making sure the chocolate chips are covered in liquid.

Otherwise, they will get stuck to the bottom and make for messy cleanup later.

Heat on low for 2-3 hours. Serves 6 people.

As always, thanks for reading! Happy sledding season from hbk!


Holiday Hosting in Small Spaces

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Gatherings of family and friends are a big part of the holiday season. Hosting such gatherings can be a great way to show loved ones how much you appreciate them, and hosting also saves hosts the trouble of traveling during one of the most hectic travel seasons of the year.
When hosting a large crowd at home, space can be a difficult hurdle to clear. However, a few helpful strategies can help space-starved hosts pull off a holiday soiree where everyone is comfortable.
• Pare down the menu. Holiday feasts don’t have to resemble medieval banquets with excessive amounts of food and drink. Hosts with small kitchens and tiny dining quarters can pare down the menu, limiting offerings to just a single entree and a few simple side dishes, so everyone feels comfortable at the table and has ample room to eat. A small menu also gives hosts more time to spend with their loved ones during the festivities.
• Don’t overdo it on drinks, either. When planning the drinks menu, avoid offering cocktails, which take time to prepare and often require guests to visit the kitchen for refrigerated ingredients. Limit drinks to wine, beer, water, and soft drinks, storing cold beverages in a cooler kept outside on a front or back porch or in an area outside the kitchen so cooks can work without interruption.
• Move some furniture. If your main living space is small, consider moving some bulky furniture into a bedroom or office where guests won’t be spending time. Then make better use of the open living space by placing folding chairs or other accommodations to ensure there’s ample seating for everyone. A single recliner can only be enjoyed by one person, but removing it from a room may create enough space for as many as three folding chairs.
• Go small on decorations. If you know you’ll be hosting in advance of the holiday season, decorate with guests in mind. That might mean skipping a six-foot Christmas tree in favor of one that takes up less space. Avoid leaving any fragile decorations out, as adults or overexcited kids may knock them over as they try to navigate a cramped space.
Holiday hosting can be fun, even in small spaces. A few simple tricks can make even the smallest spaces accommodating.


Keep safety in mind when decorating for the holidays

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Decorations help make the holiday season a magical time of year. Stores are awash in color and twinkling lights, and similar imagery is on display in private homes.
Designing holiday displays can be a great way for families to spend time together and kick off the celebration. In fact, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International, around 90 percent of Americans decorate their homes for the holidays.
When trimming the tree and decorating this holiday season, families must keep safety in mind. A little planning and some precautionary measures can ensure displays are enjoyed all season long. Travelers Insurance offers the following holiday decorating safety tips.
• Do not overload outlets. Plan displays according to the number and location of available outlets.
• Never exceed the maximum number of light strands that can be attached together.
• Use lights and products that have been tested for safety. Certification marks like UL, ETL and CSA are from nationally recognized laboratories.
• LED lights should be used whenever possible. Such lights consume less energy and run cooler than other bulbs.
• The ESFI says candles start almost 50 percent of all decoration fires. Minimize the risk by using candles only when they can be monitored. Artificial candles can be used in place of real candles.
• Check for freshness in live trees. A fresh tree will last longer and is less of a fire hazard than an old tree.
• Place Christmas trees at least three feet away from all heat sources, including fireplaces and heaters.
• Use decorations that are non-combustible or made from flame-resistant materials.
• Pay attention to the age recommendations of decorations to see if they can be used in homes with young children. Some items, however common, are choking or strangulation hazards.
• Avoid putting small, “mouth-sized” decorations near the ground or on lower limbs of trees, where young children can easily reach them.
• Exercise caution when hanging decorations at high heights. Make sure the ladder is secured and have a spotter who can hold the ladder and pass items up safely.
• Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs.
• Exercise caution when decorating near power lines that extend to the house.
• Keep hung stockings far away from open flames so they do not catch any errant embers.
These are just a few suggestions for decorating a safely for the holiday season.


Homemade By Katy: Chicken Bacon Pasta

By Katy Wise

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Last week we shared a classic recipe that falls right in with the weather we are having. Something cozy that definitely falls in line with comfort food.

With record low temperatures and snow fall, cozy is what we need right about now.

I’ve heard the joke several times now that we start getting snow early around here because of all the people who start decorating early for Christmas.

I am not decorated for Christmas yet, and while I am not casting any stones (or snowballs?) it does make you wonder…

Before you early decorators get upset – I am not about to tell anyone to pack up their early cheer. Leave it out and enjoy it.

Our family has discussed whether or not to jump on the early Christmas train several times lately, we are just undecided.

You may be the reason we have snow, though, and that’s ok. We live in Western New York, so it was bound to happen eventually.

At least the inside decorations look more in season now.

So now that we have snow, and people ready for Christmas, let’s go ahead and dive in to the comfort food, full force.

This recipe happened almost by accident last night.

We had a large supply of bacon due to a special the local grocery store had last week, and since we had already done a breakfast for dinner night over the weekend, I wanted to find another way to incorporate it into our meal.

What better way than pasta.

Before you start wondering if this is actually healthy, I can assure you that there are healthier choices out there.

We paired our pasta dinner with some salad, and next time I make it, I think I’m going to throw in some spinach.

While we had the bacon and a chicken breast on hand, we were limited with our cheese selection and some other ingredients…

On a side note, did anyone else delay their grocery shopping because of Veterans Day?

Having the kids home, I decided to reschedule my normal Monday shopping adventure for a later day in the week.

This led to more creativity, as it usually does.

Which is precisely why I used sprinkle parmesan cheese in lieu of the more intentional shredded parmesan cheese. The kind you typically buy when you are planning to make a recipe that calls for parmesan cheese…

So with that disclaimer, and the next warning that bacon has enough salt – so please don’t add more than a couple of pinches for your own sake – I present to you a quick and cozy dinner that likely tastes different from any bacon dish you’ve tried before.

As always, thanks for reading! Happy cooking from hbk.

INGREDIENTS

6 bacon strips
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¾ C. half & half or heavy cream
2 cans, diced tomatoes, no salt added
1/3 C. parmesan cheese
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
Pinch salt, optional

1 box Penne pasta, cooked according to package directions

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Cook penne according to directions. Start cooking bacon strips in a large skillet on medium heat.

2. Rinse off chicken breast, then pat dry with a paper towel. Season with a sprinkle of each of the seasonings that will be in your pasta – salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and Italian seasoning.

Cut chicken into cubes.

3. Remove bacon from pan when fully cooked, place on a paper towel covered plate and set aside.

4. Remove bacon grease from skillet and add olive oil to pan. Allow to heat up for about one minute on medium heat before adding chicken to skillet.

Brown chicken on each side, stirring for about 7-10 minutes.

5. Add diced tomatoes and half and half to skillet, cook for another 5 minutes.

6. While diced tomatoes and chicken continue cooking, cut bacon into bits.

7. Add bacon bits, parmesan cheese and seasonings to skillet. Stir thoroughly until cheese is incorporated, and then remove from heat.
8. Serve and enjoy! This recipe yields 8-10 portions.


Learn How to Carve a Better Pumpkin

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Toothy grins and a mesmerizing orange glow help make jack-o’-lanterns captivating sights come Halloween. Pumpkin carving is an autumn tradition and runs the gamut of simple designs to more intricate artwork worthy of any medium. Although anyone can grab a pumpkin and get started, when done correctly, jack-o’-lantern designs can last for several days.
• Start with a fresh pumpkin. Look for pumpkins that have a thick, green stem. These usually are fresh and haven’t been handled much. A thick stem also may indicate fleshier pumpkin walls that can be carved more easily. Avoid pumpkins that are soft or full of blemishes, or those that have dried, shriveled stems.
• Cut a hole in the back. Rather than impeding the structural integrity of the pumpkin by cutting off the top and the stem for interior access, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin. This will still make it easy to reach inside and clean out the pumpkin.
• Scoop out the pulp and seeds. Be sure to thoroughly clean the inside of the pumpkin. Leaving the pulpy, stringy matter and seeds inside can cause the pumpkin to rot that much faster and produce a foul odor. Scoopers, spoons and even hand shovels can help.
• Keep it cool. Heat can adversely affect carved pumpkins, so work in a cool area and store the pumpkin in a cold garage or refrigerator if you need a few extra days before displaying it. Also, carving experts suggest using an electric light inside rather than a candle; by using a candle, you’re essentially cooking the pumpkin from the inside.
• Work in your lap. When carving faces or intricate designs, looking down onto the pumpkin provides more control.
• Don’t cut all the way through. Many pumpkin designers end up shaving or scraping off the outer rind of the pumpkin, but leave a delicate orange film underneath. Light can still shine through, but the design will not collapse on itself as easily if you were to cut straight through the pumpkin wall. Experiment with different tools to achieve the desired look.
• Maintain the freshness. Rubbing exposed areas of the pumpkin flesh with petroleum jelly may help keep the pumpkin moist. Some designs will last for a few days. However, since pumpkins are highly perishable, it’s wise to wait to carve until a day or two before putting a pumpkin on display.


Homemade by Katy: Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

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By Katy Wise

You may have noticed that we have somewhat of a pumpkin theme going on here. I’m actually not sure what number this is in the line-up of recent pumpkin recipes that I have shared as of late, but it’s been a few.
That’s just because this season means pumpkin to me. I understand that some people share the same love but for apples.
I also love apples, there just seem to be more pumpkin recipes out there than original apple recipes that people haven’t tried before.
Maybe we need to start creating more, but the thought of apples in a trifle, for example, just doesn’t seem to have the same effect as pumpkin.
Whether it ends up being a trifle or not, next week we will try to start leveling the playing field, in favor of the other major fall flavor.
Without continuing on and on about apples and pumpkins, here is an awesome recipe for fall. Another warm and cozy one, that is a great one to save for Thanksgiving, now, or anytime in between.
As always, thanks for reading, and happy fall from hbk!
Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle
INGREDIENTS
1 box gingerbread cake, prepared
1 can pumpkin pie filling
2 boxes vanilla instant pudding
2 ½ C. milk
2 C. whipping cream (could also use cool whip)
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
DIRECTIONS
1. Prepare the gingerbread cake according to directions on box, one 8×8 square pan
will yield enough cake for recipe. Make sure that you allow your cake enough tmie to cool completely.
Allowing it to cool ensures that that the pudding mixture and whipped cream don’t melt when they come into contact with the cake.
2. Once the cake is thoroughly cooled, cut into small squares, about one inch by one inch wide.
3. Using a stand mixer, blend the milk and pudding mix together on medium speed for two minutes. Add the pumpkin to the vanilla pudding mixture, and blend well until smooth, about one more minute.
Transfer the pumpkin and vanilla pudding into a separate bowl (unless you have two mixing bowls for your stand mixer.)
Put the whipping cream, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon into mixing bowl and blend together on medium speed until there are small peaks when you pull the mixer out of the cream.
It should look like a mountain range drawn on a map if that helps.
4. Using a trifle bowl (see picture) layer ingredients to your hearts’ content!
I personally love seeing layers that are near perfection, but truthfully it will taste the same however they end up in the bowl.
Refrigerate until serving.
If desired, you can use up some of the extra gingerbread cake (if there is any!) on the top of the trifle for decoration. I used gingerbread cookies to garnish my trifle, but only because I had some on hand.
This recipe will yield between 12-18 servings, depending on serving size. Enjoy!


Interesting Facts About Fall

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Weather is often the first indicator that the seasons are changing. For many people across the globe, the hot days of summer will soon be giving way to the more crisp days of fall.
For those who live in regions where summer only subtly gives way to fall or is seemingly gone before the end of August, the 2019 autumnal equinox occurs on September 23. That marks the official beginning of fall, also known as autumn. In fact, that the season the follows summer seemingly goes by two different names is just one of many interesting facts about fall.
• A season by any other name … Fall is the term most often used to reference the season succeeding summer in the United States. But the season is referred to as “autumn” in other parts of the world, including Great Britain. Fall was once even known as “harvest” because of the harvest moon, which appears close to the autumnal equinox.
• The colors of fall foliage are actually present year-round. Fall is known for its colorful foliage. But the pigments responsible for those colors are actually present year-round. According to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, green, yellow and orange pigments are present year-round. However, during spring and summer, the leaves serve as factories where many foods necessary to help the tree grow are manufactured. That process takes place in the leaf in cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaves their green color. This process ceases as hours of daylight decrease and temperatures drop. As a result, chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears and the vivid colors of fall foliage begin to appear.
• Squirrels have a (sophisticated) plan out there. Squirrels hiding food in autumn for the upcoming winter is a familiar sight. And squirrels are more organized than many people may know. Groundbreaking research released in 1991 found that, even when squirrels bury that stash of nuts closely to one another, they will each return to the precise location of their personal cache. Recent research also has shown that squirrels bury their stash based on certain traits, such as the type of nut being buried.
• Babies born in fall are more likely to see the century mark. Researchers at the University of Chicago studied more than 1,500 centenarians born in the United States between 1880 and 1895. They then compared birth and death information with those centenarians’ siblings and spouses so they could compare their early environment and genetic background and their adult environment. Their research found that most centenarians were born between September and November.


Homemade By Katy: Mom’s Cheesy Potatoes

By Katy Wise

Let me start this off with the disclaimer that it is entirely possible that I have shared this recipe before.
This is probably my mom’s most made dish, and most popular. Whenever we are menu planning, it gets brought up.
Some recipes just need to be shared and shared again.
Recipes that come to almost every event, and are liked by people who think they are not going to like them.
To be honest, the first time my mom made this recipe, when I was a teenager, I looked at it and thought for sure that I was not going to like it.
However, you have no idea if you’ll like something if you never try it. Which is what I tell my kids all the time.
‘Mommy, I don’t like it,’ is always followed by our response of, ‘it’s not true unless you actually tried it.’
Some of our kids’ favorite foods have been discovered this way. Our eight and six year olds like sushi because they tried to tell us they didn’t and we made them try it.
Not your typical favorite or even ‘liked’ foods for those ages, but because someone made them try those things, they now know that they like them.
Back to the potatoes. Maybe it’s because we’re Irish or maybe they are just that good.
Personally, I’m going to go with both.
These are one of those side dishes that can be eaten next to just about anything. We’ve had it for Christmas morning breakfast, Easter dinner, BBQ’s and picnics.
It’s highly versatile and a kid favorite.
Something that can be passed off as a breakfast food or a Christmas dinner side dish.
I’m not going to try and pass it off as healthy or unprocessed. The very name gives it away. Cheese and potatoes.
Not exactly the lightest menu item, but everything in moderation.
Put this with some green beans and lean protein and you’ve got a mostly balanced plate and meal.
This also wins the award for most argued-over leftovers. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can come watch my sister and husband in a good old fashioned sibling rivalry battle over who gets to eat the rest of these potatoes.
If I haven’t won you over yet, these are super easy to make. I know I say that a lot.
Sometimes it’s more true than other times. This is one of those times.
Without further ado, here is the recipe, enjoy!
As always, thanks for reading, and happy potato eating from hbk!
Mom’s Cheesy Potatoes
  • 1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 
1-1/2 cups sour cream
  • 
1 pkg. (32 oz.) frozen shredded potatoes, thawed
  • 
1 pkg. (8 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 
2 cups corn flakes, crushed
  • 
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • Heat oven to 350°F.
  • Prepare 13×9 baking dish by spraying with non stick cooking now spray.
  • Mix soup and sour cream in large bowl until blended.
  • Add potatoes and cheese; mix well.
  • Spoon into dish, spreading into corners.
  • Melt butter in microwave. Crush corn flakes while butter is melting.
  • I like to put the corn flakes in a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin.
  • Combine crushed corn flakes and butter; sprinkle over potato mixture.
  • Bake 50 min. or until heated through.
  • Let cool for 5-10 minutes and serve!

Prepare Your Deck for Winter

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Homeowners often take steps to winterize the interior of their homes in the weeks before winter’s arrival, but such efforts should extend to the outside of a home as well.
Decks make for great gathering places when the weather permits. Decks are where many people spend their free time and eat their meals come spring and summer, when the temperatures climb and the sun sets well into the evening. But as summer turns to fall, homeowners must take measures to protect their decks from potentially harsh winter weather.
• Inspect the deck for problems. Decks tend to be used more often in summer than any other time of year. That makes fall and early winter an ideal time to inspect for wear and tear and any additional issues that may have cropped up throughout the summer. Damaged boards and loose handrails should be fixed before winter arrives, especially for homeowners who plan to use their decks in winter. Fixing such issues in winter and even into spring may be difficult thanks to harsh conditions, so make good use of the relatively calm autumn weather to fix any issues on the deck.
• Clear the deck of potted plants. Even homeowners who intend to use their decks in winter should remove potted plants from the deck in the fall. The home improvement experts at HGTV note that moisture can get trapped between deck boards and plastic, wood or ceramic containers in cold weather, and that can contribute to mildew, discoloration or decay.
• Store unnecessary furniture. Homeowners who like to sit on their decks in winter will no doubt want to leave some furniture out over the winter. But those with lots of furniture for entertaining guests can likely move the majority of that furniture into a garage or shed for the winter. HGTV notes that doing so will prevent the potential formation of blemishes on the deck that can result from inconsistent weathering.
• Remove snow, but do so carefully. Prolonged contact with snow and ice can damage a deck. As a result, homeowners should clear snow from their decks when accumulation is significant. HGTV recommends using a snow blower on the deck to avoid scarring. If a shovel must be used, push snow with the planks to reduce the risk of damaging the deck.
Homeowners who take steps to protect their decks throughout the winter months can ensure these popular areas are ready once entertaining season returns in the spring.


Interesting Facts About Fall

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Weather is often the first indicator that the seasons are changing. For many people across the globe, the hot days of summer will soon be giving way to the more crisp days of fall.
For those who live in regions where summer only subtly gives way to fall or is seemingly gone before the end of August, the 2019 autumnal equinox occurs on September 23. That marks the official beginning of fall, also known as autumn. In fact, that the season the follows summer seemingly goes by two different names is just one of many interesting facts about fall.
• A season by any other name … Fall is the term most often used to reference the season succeeding summer in the United States. But the season is referred to as “autumn” in other parts of the world, including Great Britain. Fall was once even known as “harvest” because of the harvest moon, which appears close to the autumnal equinox.
• The colors of fall foliage are actually present year-round. Fall is known for its colorful foliage. But the pigments responsible for those colors are actually present year-round. According to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, green, yellow and orange pigments are present year-round. However, during spring and summer, the leaves serve as factories where many foods necessary to help the tree grow are manufactured. That process takes place in the leaf in cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaves their green color. This process ceases as hours of daylight decrease and temperatures drop. As a result, chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears and the vivid colors of fall foliage begin to appear.
• Squirrels have a (sophisticated) plan out there. Squirrels hiding food in autumn for the upcoming winter is a familiar sight. And squirrels are more organized than many people may know. Groundbreaking research released in 1991 found that, even when squirrels bury that stash of nuts closely to one another, they will each return to the precise location of their personal cache. Recent research also has shown that squirrels bury their stash based on certain traits, such as the type of nut being buried.
• Babies born in fall are more likely to see the century mark. Researchers at the University of Chicago studied more than 1,500 centenarians born in the United States between 1880 and 1895. They then compared birth and death information with those centenarians’ siblings and spouses so they could compare their early environment and genetic background and their adult environment. Their research found that most centenarians were born between September and November.


Standard Vehicle Maintenance Intervals You May Want to Follow

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No two automobiles are the same. So it makes sense that vehicles have different maintenance guidelines. Such guidelines, which include recommendations regarding how frequently oil should be changed and how often tires should be rotated, are typically included in vehicle owner’s manuals. Drivers are urged to familiarize themselves with these guidelines, which can protect vehicles as well as the people inside them.
According to CarGurus®, a free internet-based automotive resource, many manufacturers adhere to the 30-60-90 schedule. That schedule recommends everything from inspections to part replacements when vehicles reach 30,000, 60,000 and 90,000 miles. These recommendations are meant to serve as guidelines, and drivers should know that certain factors can affect how often routine maintenance should occur and when parts must be replaced. For example, harsh driving conditions can lead to excessive wear and tear that causes parts to erode long before owner’s manuals suggest they should. As a result, drivers should always speak with their mechanics during service appointments to determine if their vehicles are aging gracefully or if they need a little extra TLC.
Drivers should always read their manuals for recommended service intervals. The following are some general maintenance guidelines, courtesy of CarGurus®, that drivers can keep in mind as the miles pile up on their vehicles’ odometers.
• Oil and oil filter: Many new cars now run on synthetic oil, which tends to last between 5,000 and 10,000 miles. Older vehicles using traditional oil may need to adhere to the once-standard oil change interval of 3,000 miles. Mechanics will typically replace oil filters with the same frequency as they replace oil.
• Air filter: Air filters generally need to be replaced every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. However, CarGurus® notes that drivers who park in dusty environments should err on the side of caution and have their air filters replaced every 15,000 miles.
• Fuel filter: Clogged fuel filters can affect engine performance and even prevent engines from running. Fuel filters may need to be changed at 30,000-mile intervals.
• Battery: A typical car battery tends to last around four or five years.
• Brake pads: Worn out brake pads will make a screeching sound. Brake pads should last around 50,000 miles, though they should be inspected at regular intervals regardless of mileage.
• Brake rotors: Brake rotors can be resurfaced or replaced, and this should be done around 60,000 miles. Resurfacing can only be done once and is less expensive than a full replacement.
• Hoses: Hoses crack over time, but generally do not need to be replaced until they reach the 90,000-mile mark. However, hoses should be inspected routinely, as busted hoses can cause very significant damage.
Recommended maintenance intervals are only intended to serve as guidelines. If drivers notice any changes in vehicle performance, they should consult a mechanic immediately, regardless of how many miles are on their cars or trucks.


Homemade by Katy: First Day of School

This coming week marks the end of an era in our household, and the beginning of a new one… our youngest starts pre-k next week, and we will officially have all three of our kids in school.

It’s a bit bittersweet, but the excitement that she has for school, and of course being in school with her brothers completely makes up for it.

As we make all the prep work for school this year with the buying of supplies and easing back into a school friendly bedtime and morning routine, there are several other adjustments that we are trying to make around the house.

You may be more organized than I am – which at this point in our year really wouldn’t require much, but if you’re looking for some more school tips, here they come.

Of course, these are all along the same mindset of the organization tips that you could easily find on Pinterest, but I’ve already done the Pinterest digging, trying and testing, along with a few of my own time saving ideas, tips and tweaks.

I hope that some of this can benefit someone out there.

Tips for the first day and first weeks of school:

1. First Day Pictures. I know a lot of people do this, and I am a huge picture taker. I try to document everything, which may or may not be a character flaw.

If you want nice pictures with your child’s teacher, in front of your house, or with any possible siblings, you will need to start at least thirty minutes early. Yes, that sounds extreme. Getting kids to stand still and smile on the first day of really getting back into a different schedule will almost assuredly require more time than you would think.

First Day Picture IDEAS: the chalkboard – everyone knows this one, and up until this year when I suddenly cannot find my chalkboard, we had a double sided one that I completely personalized for our sons.

This year I made my life easier and got three of the kind that you fill in with information.

2. Set out outfits for each day of the week for younger kids. This one is self-explanatory. Sunday nights I will be checking the forecast and laying out outfits for our four-year-old, so she can dress herself.

When you’re getting back into a school schedule, having clothes already ready is a huge timesaver!

This laying out of outfits even includes hair accessories and socks. Of course, we may stray from this a little bit, but having things that match so you don’t have to go searching will be a big help.

3. Pre-cutting fruits and veggies. This one is straight from the Pinterest boards. I used it about half way through the school year last year when packing lunches got to be a bit of a hassle.

Do your meal prep at the beginning of the week, as much as possible, so that you can grab things and throw them right in the lunchbox.

If you want to be over organized – write down what each days’ lunch will be. This may sound crazy, but packing three lunches is no joke some days.

Another tip is to separate foods by food group within your fridge, which can help kids to learn how to pack and portion their own lunches. For example, a plastic bin that is labeled, ‘Dairy, take one,’ and filled with cheese sticks and yogurt.

Will I actually be this organized? Time alone will tell.

As always, thanks for reading, and happy back to school from hbk!


3 tips when reading nutrition facts labels

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Much about trips to the grocery store has changed since many adults were children. Many grocery stores are considerably larger than they were as recently as 20 years ago and now sell everything from traditional grocery store fare to clothing to items one might expect to find in a hardware store.
Another aspect of grocery shopping that has changed over the years is the groceries themselves. Nutrition labels have been around for decades, though today’s labels contain considerably more information than they did in years past. As a result, many shoppers, even those who make sure to read product labels before placing items in their shopping carts, may not know exactly what they’re buying.
Nutrition labels can be complicated, and ingredients that are beneficial for some consumers may be harmful to others. Seniors and people with existing medical conditions should always discuss their diets with their physicians, asking if there are specific foods they should avoid or seek out. In addition, the following three tips, courtesy of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, can help consumers understand nutrition labels and make sound choices.

1. Read the serving size information.
Serving size information on nutrition labels indicates both the recommended serving size and the number of servings contained in the package. The AND recommends that consumers compare the portion size they actually eat to the serving size listed on the label. Some people may consume more than one serving size per meal, and that can affect just how much of each ingredient, including ingredients like sodium that can be harmful if consumed in excess, a person is eating.

2. Pay attention to calorie count.
Nutrition labels contain calorie counts, which can help people maintain healthy weights. Being at a healthy weight has been linked to a reduced risk for various conditions, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Nutrition labels list calories per serving, so people trying limit their calorie intake to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight should pay particular attention to this information.

3. Let percent daily values guide you.
The AND notes that percent daily values, which are listed as “DV” on food labels, help consumers determine how particular foods fit into their daily meal plans. These values are based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, though some people may need more or fewer calories than that. In addition, some people may need more than the 100 percent recommended daily value of a given nutrient. Consumers should discuss their specific needs regarding calorie and nutrient intake with their physicians. For those advised to heed the daily values recommendations, ingredients that are listed at 5 percent DV or less are considered low, while those that are 20 percent DV or higher are considered high. The AND recommends aiming low for ingredients like sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol, while high in vitamins, minerals and fiber can be beneficial.
More information about nutrition labels can be found at http://www.eatingright.org.


3 Strategies to Beat the Summer Heat

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The dog days of summer can be challenging. As the mercury rises to potentially unhealthy heights, spending time outdoors can become less comfortable and even dangerous. Finding ways to beat the summer heat can help people avoid injury and illness and ensure they still get to enjoy their summers. The following are three ways to beat the summer heat, though it’s important that seniors, pregnant women, parents of young children, and anyone with a preexisting health condition speak with their physicians about the precautions they should take before going outside on hot days. 1. Change your exercise routine, if necessary. Summer is a great time to exercise outdoors. However, it’s important that people who are used to working out in midday change their outdoor exercise routines on hot days. Members of the Miami-based Bikila Athletic Club provide a list of tips to new members who may be unaccustomed to the Florida heat and humidity. One of those tips recommends training early in the morning before the sun gets too high. During the dog days of summer, early morning temperatures tend to be more mild than midday temperatures. That can reduce athletes’ risk of injury or illness, though it’s still important to avoid exercising in especially hot temperatures regardless of the time of day. 2. Practice passive cooling at night. Nightflushing is a passive cooling technique that involves opening the windows in a home at night. Doing so can make indoor areas healthier and more comfortable for a home’s inhabitants during the dog days of summer. HVAC systems keep homes cool in summer, but over time hot and stale air can accumulate inside a home. If that air is not removed, a home can feel stuffy and airborne pollutants like carbon dioxide can reach potentially unhealthy levels. By opening their windows at night, homeowners can let that stale, potentially unhealthy air out and let the cool air of summer evenings in. 3. Stay hydrated. It’s easy to become dehydrated at any time of year, but especially so during the dog days of summer. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that the human body needs an average of three quarts of water per day on a normal day. However, conditions on mid- to late-summer days make it necessary for many people to consume more water than that, especially if they plan to spend time outdoors. On hot days, make sure you’re taking in more fluids than you’re losing. Take water with you when going outside, and be sure to rehydrate with more water when going back indoors. Summer heat can be a formidable opponent, but it can be overcome in various ways.


Homemade by Katy: Bears at the Beach Trifle

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If you happened to catch last week’s recipe, then you probably read that my son’s birthday party ended up with two desserts.

This is what happens when you combine an indecisive six year-old and a large extended family.

I knew there was a large chance that we would need more than one dessert due to the amount of people, so when he couldn’t decide, it presented the perfect opportunity to make them both.

Along the very same lines of pudding, cake and gummy candy was his second birthday dessert.

A trifle that was much unlike any of the other ones I’ve made, including teddy grahams and a little beach scene.

He got the idea from some cupcakes that I had made years back for my niece’s birthday when she was about the same age.

A few adjustments to turn this into something larger scale than cupcakes, and we were good to go.

If you have a beach themed party, summer event, or even just a day at the beach coming up, here’s your snack. This is quite possibly the quickest, easiest beach dessert you’ll find!

Without further delay, here are some cute bears at the beach to make your summer m=fun a little cuter.

As always, thanks for reading! Happy beach days and happy baking from hbk!

Bears at the Beach Trifle

INGREDIENTS
1 yellow or white cake, prepared

12 graham crackers, finely crushed
4 Oreos, optional*
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
2-4 Tbsp. sugar
1 pkg. vanilla pudding, large or family pack
3 C. milk
Blue food coloring

GARNISHES
Teddy Grahams
Tootsie rolls
Lifesaver gummies
Swedish Fish
Drink umbrellas, optional

1. Take a cooled white or yellow cake and cut into small pieces, layering at the bottom of the trifle bowl.

2. In a food processor, or a Ziploc bag, crush the graham crackers. Mix in sugar and butter. Sugar can be down according to your taste preferences.
* If desired, crush 4 Oreo cookies at the same time to add extra speckles to your sand. Without them, you will still have great sand! They just add a little extra.

3. Prepare pudding according to package directions. Add food coloring and mix well. I used gel food coloring, and it took about 1/8 teaspoon to reach the water color I wanted.

4. Layer pudding on top of cake to make your water, and graham cracker crumbs on top of one side of the pudding (see picture.)

5. Use Swedish fish, teddy grahams and lifesaver gummies to decorate your beach scene! You will need a very small amount of each to decorate with. If you can buy them from a bulk candy section, this would be ideal.

I used about 9 teddy grahams, 2 fruity tootsie rolls, rolled out with a rolling pin to make beach towels, 4 lifesaver gummies for inter-tubes, and about 4 Swedish fish in the water. Decorate to your hearts’ content!

This dessert will serve 6-8 people.


Antipasta Salad

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Summer is nigh upon us, friends. Only a few days left until the calendar officially says that it’s summertime, and the kids finish filtering out of schools.

Along with the seasons changing, comes a slightly different menu. A menu consisting of lighter fare, and for this family, things that can be taken on the go.

Things that can be made ahead of time and taken out the door with us, or quickly consumed on a quick stop home before leaving for another destination.

The ultimate goal in our house when it comes to food is quick, healthy and kid approved.

Our kids eat a varied diet and really aren’t what you would call picky eaters. However, as most kids do while they grow up and learn and experience more – they are starting to develop different tastes and food preferences.

When I make something that is a favorite amongst the three of them, and my husband and myself, it immediately gets added into the repertoire.

Not too long ago, I started making a list of things to try out for our family, so we would have some more go to meals.

You could call these, ‘meals on trial.’

Again, the goal being something that I can pack veggies and protein into, and something that’s relatively quick.

The most recent food trial was a hit, and my five-year-old declared that he would eat it every single day of his life if I let him.

This kid has been a foodie since he was born, but when his siblings agreed, I was pretty impressed.

Antipasta is also a popular choice for family reunions and picnics, so this is a good recipe to have on hand.

There are a couple more food trials yet to take place, and I will keep you updated on the results. For now, here is a kid-approved winner that we will likely be eating throughout the warmer months.

As always, thanks for reading and happy summer from hbk!

Antipasta Salad

1 pkg. veggie rotini
1 pkg. turkey pepperoni
1 can sliced black olives
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 large yellow bell pepper, diced
1 pkg. cherry tomatoes, halved
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed (block of cheese)
1 bottle, parmesan Italian dressing*

1. Cook rotini according to package directions.

2. While rotini is cooking, rinse and prepare veggies. Set aside in a large bowl.

3. Cut cheese into cubes, and cut peperoni slices in half. Separate the pieces the best that you can and set in large bowl with veggies.

4. Rinse and drain olives, add to bowl.

5. When rotini is done cooking, drain and rinse with cold water.

6. Combine all ingredients in large bowl, then pour dressing over top. Stir until the dressing is coating everything.

Store in airtight container until serving, will yield 10-12 generous portions.

*I used Wegmans brand Italian dressing, but if you can’t find this one, you could also use regular Italian dressing and add sprinkle parmesan cheese for a similar result.


Keep Kids Safe When Mowing the Lawn

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Warm weather beckons many people outdoors. Perhaps no group of people like being out in the warm sun more than children.
Children should be encouraged to spend time outdoors when the weather allows, as physical activity is one of the hallmarks of a healthy lifestyle. But parents must exercise caution when kids are playing in the yard, especially when the grass is being mowed.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 9,000 children in the United States go to the emergency room for lawn mower-related injuries every year. Of the 800 children who are run over by mowers each year, 600 ultimately require amputations.
Many mower-related injuries occur when children who are too young and/or too weak to operate a mower are asked to do so. The AAP recommends that only children age 12 and older operate push mowers, while riding mowers should only be used by kids 16 and older. No child should use a mower without first being taught how to operate it, and kids should always wear eye protection and close-toed shoes when mowing. In addition, parents should never allow children to ride as passengers while mowing the lawn.
Mower-related injuries are preventable if parents emphasize safety. The following are some tips, courtesy of the AAP, that parents can follow to ensure their kids do not become one of the thousands of children who suffer mower-related injuries in a given year.
• Only use a mower with a control that stops the mower blade from moving if the handle is let go.
• Keep children out of the yard while mowing. Mower blades can shoot rocks, sticks or other common yard debris out in all directions, and these trajectories put kids at risk of injuries to their eyes and other parts of their bodies.
• Scour the yard for toys before mowing. Toys left in the yard can become trajectories if not removed prior to mowing, and chipped toys with sharp edges can pose a threat to kids even after the grass has been cut.
• Exercise caution if going in reverse. The AAP advises against pulling a mower backward or shifting into reverse unless absolutely necessary. If you must do so, look behind you to make sure no kids are trailing you or are nearby.
• Only mow when there is adequate daylight.
• Periodically inspect your mower. Periodic inspections of your mower can help you make sure guards, shields, switches, and other safety devices are in proper working order.
When mowing their lawns, parents must make safety their utmost priority to ensure kids do not suffer mower-related injuries.


The Effects of UV Rays on the Eyes

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The sun can be both friend and foe. A warm, sunny day can improve mood and increase levels of vitamin D in the body. Exposure to sunlight during the day also can help regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm. However, overexposure to the sun can be dangerous as well.
Many people recognize that exposure to the sun can lead to sunburn and long-standing skin damage, but they may not realize that the eyes also are susceptible to damage caused by the sun. The eye health resource All About Vision warns that extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays has been linked to significant eye problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration, pinguecula, pterygia, and photokeratitis. UV rays come in three types: A, B and C. The atmosphere’s ozone layer blocks virtually all UVC rays, which are the most potent, but UVA and UVB can be dangerous when exposure to the sun is significant.
Exposure to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time can cause photokeratitis, which is essentially a sunburn of the eye that can cause pain and redness. Prolonged exposure to UV rays without adequate protection may cause lasting damage, says the American Optometric Association. UV rays come from both the sun itself and tanning beds. Here’s a look at some of the common UV-induced eye conditions.
• Cataracts: A clouding of the eye’s natural lens, or the part of the eye that focuses the light a person sees.
• Macular degeneration: UV rays may lead to macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of vision loss for older people. The macula is the center portion of the retina, essential for vision.
• Pterygium: This is a growth that begins on the white of the eye and may involve the cornea. The growth can eventually impede vision, says the organization Prevent Blindness America.
Sunglasses and other protective lenses are essential to keeping the eyes healthy. AOA says that for sunglasses to be effective, they should:
• block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation;
• screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light;
• have lenses that are perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection; and
• have lenses that are gray for proper color recognition.
In addition, people can wear wide-brimmed hats to protect their eyes from the sun and harmful UV rays. This will shield the eyes and the delicate skin of the face.
Learn more about protecting the eyes at http://www.allaboutvision.com, http://www.aoa.org, or http://www.preventblindnessamerica.org.


Homemade by Katy: Marshmallow Fondant

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Recently, I had the perfect opportunity to try out a recipe that I have been wanting to try for quite some time. That recipe is marshmallow fondant.

I’ve used regular fondant before, and while I liked the clean, smooth texture and backdrop that it provides, I didn’t particularly care for the taste of it, and the people who eat the things that I bake agreed.

With all the things that I have baked, I’ve tried never to sacrifice taste for the overall look of the cake, even when it comes to a themed birthday cake or sugar cookies. If it looks simple, but tastes great, then I’ve met the goal.

What’s the point of making something with sugar that looks pretty but tastes terrible?

If you’re going to make things that are bad for you, they had better be worth the calories, right?

Sure, there are a variety of preferences that come into play here, for one thing – some people actually like, or don’t mind the taste of fondant. Many people also like different types of frosting, not everyone likes buttercream.

This is where it all comes down to knowing what your personal strengths are in baking, and what your target audience is.

If you’re going to make something your own, then don’t hesitate, and make it the best way that YOU would make it.

Even when you’re making cookies, there’s no reason they have to be, ‘cookie cutter,’ or exactly like everyone else’s. Pun completely intentional.

Last week was my daughter’s fourth birthday, and she had her heart set on a, ‘Mary Poppins,’ theme. Both movies are family favorites of ours, so I was thrilled to run with this idea.

I was shocked when I came to realize how hard it was going to be to find things to coordinate with this party theme.

That meant that everything specific to the party was going to have to be personally paired and customized, which meant lots of baking and brainstorming around the corner.

In other words, a fantastic reason to do some of my favorite things!

Even though I had ample notice of Ellie’s party request, narrowing down what to do on a birthday cake was a bit difficult to do.

After all, there are so many whimsical, fun ideas in Mary Poppins, especially when you combine both the original movie and the new one.

Finally, with some help of the birthday girl, we decided on a sky filled with balloons cake which coordinates with one of the final scenes in the movie.

The name of the song from the scene is, ‘Nowhere to go but up’, which has such a great meaning behind it, especially when paired with a celebration of a toddler’s birthday.

This might be starting to sound like a movie review, and while that isn’t intentional, I can’t exactly apologize for it as it has everything to do with this cake.

I knew we were going to need something three dimensional to create the balloons from, to make it a bit more interesting than just piped on buttercream.

Here was the time to try out this recipe – finally.

To sum things up, it turned out far better than I expected, and I can hardly wait for the chance to use it again, which will definitely be happening at some point in the future.

It cut beautifully, had a great sheen to it, and was perfectly smooth. The smoothness of the fondant cut balloons could definitely be compared to that of a real balloon.

The taste was much like what you would expect of something made from marshmallows – it was sweet and almost fluffy. Not something you would need to avoid or peel off of a cake.

Although I could probably keep telling you about this wonderful, and wonderfully fun to make, fondant, I’ll leave you with the recipe now.

As always, thanks for reading, and happy baking from hbk!

Marshmallow Fondant
INGREDIENTS
1 pkg. 16 oz. white mini marshmallows
2-5 Tbsp. water
2 lb. powdered sugar, or 8 cups
1/2 C.  solid vegetable shortening
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional – gel food coloring

1. Spray a rubber spatula and your hands in non-stick cooking spray.
2. Stir together the marshmallows and 2 Tbsp. water in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds on high, then stir. Repeat microwaving in 30 second increments and stirring until completely smooth.

3. Stir in about 3/4 of the powdered sugar, and vanilla and continue combining until smooth.

4. Coat a large countertop, and your hands again, with the shortening, and sprinkle with some of the remaining powdered sugar. Keep the shortening close by to recoat the surface as needed.

5. Knead the fondant until stretchy and smooth. If the fondant tears when stretched, it will need a bit more water kneaded into it. Form into a large squishy ball, and store in plastic wrap or a resealable bag.

6. At this point, you can knead and work in other colors if needed. Separate into different amounts and work with each individual color until you achieve the color needed.

This will yield enough for an 8-inch, 4 layer cake, with some to spare for decorating. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.


Kid-Friendly Weekend Getaways in the Great Outdoors

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Weekend getaways in the great outdoors can be a great way for families to break from the norm and spend some quality time together while getting some fresh air. Such trips are popular, as the U.S. Travel Association notes that nearly three out of four domestic trips are taken for leisure purposes.
Families looking to get away from home on weekends often look for activities or locales that appeal to kids and parents alike while getting everyone out of the house. The following are a handful of outdoor getaway ideas the whole family can enjoy.
• Hiking: By 2015, the United States was home to nearly 240,000 miles of hiking trails on federal and state lands. Hiking opportunities also are abundant in Canada, where the 2016 General Social Survey found that 44 percent of Canadians go hiking in a given year, making it the country’s most popular outdoor activity. Hiking is a rewarding, healthy hobby that also happens to be free, which can be especially appealing to budget-conscious parents. When exploring potential hiking destinations, parents should look for parks with kid-friendly trails. Many parks have paved trails on flat surfaces, which are ideal for families with small children.
• Rivers/lakes: Escaping to a nearby river or lake for a day on the water can make for a memorable, family-friendly getaway. Look for activities like fishing and bring your own rods or rent from nearby bait and tackle shops. If cruising is more your family’s style, look for boat tours that offer a chance to explore local history while giving the whole family a chance to relax on a boat and soak up some sun.
• Zoo/aquarium: According to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, there are more than 220 accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States and Canada. That makes it easy for families that live just about anywhere to plan day trips to local zoos, where they can spend the day soaking up some sun and marveling at exotic wildlife. Zoos and aquariums with outdoor exhibits make for wonderful, family-friendly weekend getaways.
• Theme parks: Theme parks make for a great weekend getaways for families. Many theme parks even offer rides and attractions for young children, but parents should call ahead to confirm this before planning their trips.
Weekend getaways are great ways for families to spend time in the great outdoors and take advantage of local attractions. With some simple investigation, families might find there are lots of local attractions within driving distance of their homes.


Homemade by Katy: Chipotle Chicken Pasta

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This next recipe is derived from a menu item from a restaurant that’s mostly about cheesecake. Without stating the name, I’ll give you a couple more clues and you can piece it together from there.

The restaurant has an extensive menu with a large variety of options, and the second word of the establishment’s title is, ‘factory.’

Now whether or not you figure that out is completely up to you and your restaurant knowledge.

My first time at this restaurant was actually one of the first dates that my husband and I went on, and this was the first dish that I tried there.

That may have something to do with why it’s one of my favorites.

I can recall being very skeptical of the various ingredients that had been paired together in this pasta, curious about how they would incorporate them.

Asparagus, peas, and chipotle? Something there seemed very strange to me, but also intriguing.

Long story short, it was love at first bite.

Which led to another problem, because with such a large menu, but also a dish that you already know you greatly enjoy, how in the world do you decide what (and if) to try next?

Next I started to try and make it at home, until I stumbled across this recipe, which hit the nail on the head.

Does the restaurant make it better?

I personally think everything tastes better when someone else cooked it for you, and then cleans the table and dishes afterwards.

However, in those times when you just need to eat at home, but need something a bit more special, this is a great option.

Tastes almost exactly like the real thing, especially when you end the meal with cheesecake.

Is this quicker? Definitely not, unless you are also counting the drive to the restaurant from Fredonia.

Although I could continue talking about this pasta for a good while longer, I’ll leave you with the recipe and let you decide for yourself.

As always, thanks for reading, and happy cooking from hbk!

INGREDIENTS

2 boneless skinless chicken breast, tenderized and cut into 1″ chunks
1 pound penne pasta
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. chipotle pepper sauce from canned adobo peppers
1 yellow bell pepper chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
1/2 yellow onion chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
2 C. heavy cream
1 C. frozen peas
1 pound fresh asparagus the thinner the better
6 ounces shredded parmesan cheese
cilantro and tortilla chip strips for garnish, optional
INSTRUCTIONS
1. Set your water to boil for pasta in a large pot.

2. Add the asparagus to the pasta water and boil for 2-3 minutes or until tender crisp.

3. Shock the asparagus with cold water through a colander.

4. Cook pasta for one minute less than the package instructions, then drain into the same colander as asparagus. Don’t rinse.

5. After cutting the chicken, place into a bowl, adding the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir together and let sit while you cook the rest of the dish.

6. Place butter in a large skillet and melt over medium heat.

7. Add the bell peppers and onions and cook until just translucent.

8. Add in the garlic and cook an extra minute.

9. Remove the vegetables from skillet and add in the olive oil.

10. Add the chicken to the pan and turn the heat up to medium-high, brown chicken on both sides.

11. Brown the chicken on both sides. Add in the honey and stir, cooking an additional 5 seconds.

12. Add the bell pepper mixture back to the pan with the chicken, stirring together well.

13. Stir well, then add in the adobo sauce, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese.

14. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, then add in the pasta, asparagus and frozen green peas.

15. Stir to coat everything and serve with any garnishes you’d like (Cheesecake Factory uses tortilla strip chips and cilantro).

Makes 6 generous portions.


Mother’s Day Ideas for Moms From All Walks of Life

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Mother’s Day is a celebration of women who devote so much of their effort and energy to their families. Celebrating Mom on Mother’s Day lets her know all of her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
Mothers may perform similar tasks, but no two moms are the same. Finding ways to celebrate Mom’s uniqueness can make the day that much more meaningful and memorable.

The Crafter
Mothers who are avid crafters may enjoy a craft-themed Mother’s Day. A family crafting project can make for a fun afternoon and produce mementos that Mom will cherish for years to come. Dads and kids can plan the project in advance without Mom’s knowledge, arranging all of the materials ahead of time and setting up the crafting station the night before or while Mom is relaxing on Mother’s Day morning. Kids can even get a head start on the day by making their own craft for Mom and giving it to her as a Mother’s Day present. Dads can keep the craft theme going at dinner and get a laugh out of Mom by pouring her a craft beer when dinner is served.

The Reader
A 2017 survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that women read more than men. Women read an average of 19.8 minutes per day, which can make a Mother’s Day focused on Mom’s love of books an ideal and unique way to spend the day. Kids can write Mom their own books, and Dad can help put them together. Dads can visit rare bookstores and look for original copies of Mom’s favorite books that she might not find elsewhere.

The Nature Lover
Fishing and other outdoor activities might have a reputation as predominantly male hobbies, but studies show that’s not really the case. A 2016 report from the Outdoor Foundation found that 46 percent of people who participated in outdoor activities were women. If Mom is a nature enthusiast, families can plan a Mother’s Day enjoying the great outdoors, even giving Mom a new fishing pole, hiking gear or other items that align with her favorite nature activity.

The Relaxation Specialist
Of course, some mothers may want to simply unwind with a relaxing morning at the spa on Mother’s Day. In fact, the 2018 U.S. Spa Industry Study found that the spa industry has enjoyed seven consecutive years of consistent growth, with more than 187 billion spa visits in 2017 alone. A relaxing morning at the spa can be the perfect way for moms to begin Mother’s Day before they enjoy a brunch of dinner out with their families.
Mother’s Day celebrations can be as unique as the women being celebrated.


Daily Steps to Keep Your Heart Healthy

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Heart disease is a formidable foe. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease accounts for nearly 25 percent of all deaths in the United States each year.
Issues relating to the heart affect both men and women, and an estimated 15 million adults in the U.S. have coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease. And heart disease is not exclusive to the United States, as the Heart Research Institute says that every seven minutes in Canada someone dies from heart disease or stroke.
Such statistics are disconcerting, but they can serve as a wake-up call that compels people to prioritize heart health. Fortunately, heart disease is often preventable and people can employ various strategies to reduce their risk.
• Stop smoking right now. One of the best things to do to protect the heart is to stop smoking. The Heart Foundation indicates that smoking reduces oxygen in the blood and damages blood vessel walls. It also contributes to atherosclerosis, or a narrowing and clogging of the arteries.
• Eat healthy fats. When eating, choose polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats and avoid trans fats as much as possible. Trans fats increase one’s risk of developing heart disease by clogging arteries and raising LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Read food labels before buying anything at the store.
• Keep your mouth clean. Studies show that bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum disease can travel to the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein, a marker for blood vessel inflammation. Brush and floss twice daily, and be sure to schedule routine dental cleanings.
• Get adequate shut-eye. Ensuring adequate sleep can improve heart health. One study found that young and middle-age adults who regularly slept seven hours a night had less calcium in their arteries (a sign of early heart disease) compared to those who slept five hours or less or those who slept nine hours or more.
• Adopt healthy eating habits. Changes to diet, including eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight, improve cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure — leading to a healthier heart.
• Embrace physical activity. Regular moderate exercise is great for the heart. It can occur at the gym, playing with the kids or even taking the stairs at work.
A healthy heart begins with daily habits that promote long-term heart health.


Smarter Driving for Foggy Weather

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Weather patterns can be fickle. One moment it may be chilly and sunny, while the next warm and wet. As a new season arrives, fog may roll in along with it.
Fog occurs during extremely humid conditions. For fog to be present, some type of dust or air pollution also needs to be present in the air so that microscopic water particles can surround it. According to the National Geographic Society, fog occurs when water vapor, or water in its gaseous form, condenses. During condensation, molecules of water vapor combine to make tiny liquid water droplets that hang in the air. You can see fog because of these tiny water droplets.
While fog can be a marvel to behold — completely obscuring landmarks or mountains in some instances — it can make driving challenging. Even seasoned drivers find fog is dangerous and difficult to drive in. The Federal Highway Administration says fog may contribute to more than 500 fatalities each year.
When driving in foggy conditions, drivers’ full attention needs to be directed to the road. These tips also can help keep drivers safe when navigating foggy conditions.
• Reduce speed. Slowing down affords you more reaction time if traffic stops or if other hazards seemingly appear out of nowhere. Leave considerable space between cars.
• Engage the wipers. Improve visibility as much as possible by turning on the windshield wipers and the defroster to help.
• Use low beams. Make sure your vehicle is as visible as possible to others. Turn on the low-beam headlights so your car is noticeable to other motorists. High beams can cause glare, so avoid them, however tempting it may be to use them.
• Drive in the right lane. Use the lines and reflectors on the right side of the road to help guide your direction, suggests AccuWeather.
• Remain engaged. Do not use cruise control or allow any distractions in the car when driving in fog. Turn off the radio, put your phone away and focus on driving.
• Take a break. If the fog is greatly compromising your visibility, pull over in a safe spot or parking lot until it dissipates. Make sure to put on your hazard lights. The California DMV says the best advice for driving in fog is not to do so.
Driving in fog can be tricky and unsafe. Always exercise caution when fog rolls in.


Avoid Aches and Pains When Gardening

People who have not spent much time in a garden may not consider this rewarding hobby much of a threat to their health. But as veteran gardeners can attest, gardening can contribute to nagging aches and pains that can force even the most ardent green-thumbers indoors.
Gardening is a physical activity that, despite its peaceful nature, can be demanding on the body. Thankfully, there are several ways that gardening enthusiasts can prevent the aches and pains that can sometimes pop up after long days in the garden.
• Use ergonomic gardening tools. Ergonomic gardening tools are designed to prevent the types of aches, pains and injuries that can cut gardeners’ seasons short. Gardening injuries can affect any area of the body, but injuries or aches and pains affecting the back, wrists and hands are among the most common physical problems gardeners endure. Look for ergonomic tools that reduce the strain on these areas of the body. Even arthritis sufferers who love to garden may find that ergonomic tools make it possible for them to spend more time in their gardens without increasing their risk for injury.
• Alternate tasks. Repetitive-strain injuries can affect gardeners who spend long periods of time performing the same activity in their gardens. By alternating tasks during gardening sessions, gardeners can reduce their risk of suffering repetitive strain injuries. Alternate tasks not just on muscle groups worked, but also level of difficulty. Remember to include some simple jobs even on busy gardening days so the body gets a break.
• Take frequent breaks. Frequent breaks can help combat the stiffness and muscle aches that may not appear until gardeners finish their gardening sessions. Breaks help to alleviate muscles or joints that can become overtaxed when gardening for long, uninterrupted periods of time. When leaning down or working on your hands and knees, stand up to take breaks every 20 minutes or the moment aches and pains start to make their presence felt.
• Maintain good posture. Back injuries have a tendency to linger, which can keep gardeners indoors and out of their gardens. When gardening, maintain good posture to prevent back injuries. Gardening back braces can protect the back by providing support and making it easier for gardeners to maintain their posture. Tool pouches attached to gardening stools or chairs also can be less taxing on the back than gardening belts tied around the waist.
Gardening might not be a contact sport, but it can cause pain if gardeners do not take steps to prevent the onset of muscle aches and strains when spending time in their gardens.