Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Decorating with LED Lights

Thanksgiving weekend is often the customary time for putting up the Christmas tree. Each family has their own traditions for this family event. Many love the yearly pilgrimage to select and cut their own tree. The specially selected tree fills the house with that wonderful evergreen Christmas scent. Other families have opted for the artificial tree for many reasons. It is generally less of a fire hazard and will outlast the fresh cut tree. If purchasing a live Christmas tree, be careful. Many of those trees will have been cut for over a month by the time Christmas arrives. Regardless of the kind of Christmas tree, the decorations are very important. There is the family treasure tree, which features little ornaments that your children have made in school each year. The fact that they become ragged and worn only adds to their special appeal. Some families put up several trees each year. There is the family tree and maybe a theme tree in another room. The possibilities are endless. Before electricity, candles were actually put on the tree on Christmas Eve. Talk about a fire hazard! There are different schools of thought about Christmas tree lights. Do you prefer white or colored lights? In recent years we have a new kid on the block- LED Christmas lights. While these lights are a bit more expensive than the traditional mini lights, they will last much longer. The old incandescent lights only last about 2,000 hours while the LED bulbs will last for 100,000 hours or more. If you have ever felt the frustration of a string of lights that are partially burned out due to one bad bulb, then you will appreciate these LED lights even more. The LED bulbs do not have filaments. Hence, they will not burn out. They are virtually indestructible even if you accidently step on the string of LED sights. If you still are not convinced, consider the fact that they are so much more energy efficient. They use 90% less energy than the incandescent lights allowing you to save on your electricity bill. Many of us have made the leap to the CFL light bulbs. These compact fluorescent light bulbs can be recognized by the swirl. According to the TVA, “Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are a good choice for home lighting because they use less energy than incandescent bulbs, produce the same light output, and last up to 10 times longer. Each bulb can save $40 or more in electricity costs over its lifetime.” If you are looking to update your Christmas tree this year, the brighter LED lights may be just what you need to lessen your own carbon footprint on the planet.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Andrews Middle School Students Learn the Importance of Moderation and Portion Control

Andrew’s Middle School hosted a health fair on Thursday, November 18, 2010.
Teresa Wiley, the family and consumer sciences agent for the Cherokee County Cooperative Extension Service presented a program on nutrition for approximately 140 students in grades 6 through 7. The first part of the program emphasized the importance of eating healthy foods and healthy portions. The second part demonstrated how students could enjoy a healthy snack if they practiced moderation and portion control. One assistant from the group was selected to help prepare a cake in a mug using a microwave oven. Even though the group was only allowed to sample a “micro smidgen” of cake, they seemed to enjoy the demonstration.

Picture #1 Skyler Griffin, 8th grade student
Picture #2 Morgan Mashburn, 6th grade student

Monday, November 15, 2010

Start Your Christmas Planning Now

It is hard to believe that some are packing away their cornucopias and putting up the Christmas trees before we even celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday! Of course retailers start with Christmas in October before Halloween. With a sluggish economy it is imperative that retailers start early in attempts to stay in the black with Christmas retail sales. Black Friday has traditionally been the Friday after Thanksgiving. I am even seeing ads for Pre-Black Friday sales. Getting a head start on Holiday shopping is always a good idea. If you can save money in the process, then this is a bonus. Many of the mail order companies offer incentives such as free shipping from now until Christmas. Thus, the Christmas frenzy has officially begun. In order to keep your sanity and enjoy the holidays, it is not too early to draft a plan. It is the last minute details that often add the stress. Divide your “to do” list into the following: gift list, food, decorations, wrapping, cards and shipping.
Gift list – Is it possible to trim a few names off the list? Most of us could certainly trim the number of gifts that our children receive. My sister’s friend had a novel idea. She told her children that Jesus received three gifts, so that is the number of gifts that her children will receive.
Food – If you traditionally prepare a meal for Christmas, what are the foods that can be prepared ahead of time and put in the freezer? Things like cornbread for the dressing could be made ahead of time.
Some goodies such as candied pecans could also be made in advance.
Decorations – Sometimes the process is more enjoyable if you don’t try to do it all at one time. Select one day for the outside and window decorations. Unpack the Christmas tree decorations and check the lights if you don’t use a pre-lit tree. Then, on another day put on the Christmas music, heat the cider and decorate the tree with all the family members who wish to help.
Wrapping – If you were real thrifty, you purchased wrapping supplies last year when they were marked down to half price. Wrapping a few gifts each week helps. I tend to get a little sloppy with the wrapping if I wait and wrap all of my gifts at one time.
Cards and shipping – Check with the Post Office about dead lines for shipping and your cards. This is usually a holiday chore that can be crossed off at least a week before the actual holiday. “Same day shipping” may or may not happen.
Once I have my Thanksgiving feast I will make my lists and get ready for the holidays!

Holidays are a Perfect Time to Add New Dishes to Your Menu

Thanksgiving and food, of course the two are synonymous. Every family has the traditional favorites. If you are a true Southerner, this means turkey, corn bread dressing, sweet potato soufflĂ©, just to name a few. Brenda Sutton is the county extension director for Cooperative Extension in Rockingham County. She is also known as “The Produce Lady” and devotes many hours promoting North Carolina food producers. The following information was lifted from
The Produce Lady E-newsletter, November 2010.
We are fortunate in North Carolina to have so many wonderful farm families! I am thankful to each and every one of them, who maintain more than 50,000 N.C. farms to support their families, communities, and consumers like you and me. We can show our appreciation and complete the circle by taking part in the 10% Campaign and committing 10 percent of our food budgets to buy from local food producers. Learn more about the 10% Campaign at
The holidays are a perfect time to add some new dishes to your menu. While any winter squash variety is a good choice, I particularly love butternut. It’s a perfect complement to the traditional turkey and dressing feast. Or if you’re vegetarian, it’s robust enough to be the main feature. A squash as versatile and tasty as butternut deserves a place on your table this fall. Butternut’s orange flesh provides healthy, complex carbohydrates and contains only 80 calories per cooked cup. It is full of fiber.
Be sure to scrub butternut squash with a vegetable brush under running water just before cutting. Once cleaned, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds before preparing. I’ve heard many people bemoan the fact that butternut squash is too hard to peel. Don’t let that deter you. Invest a couple of bucks in a y-shaped vegetable peeler and problem solved! Preparing this earthy fall vegetable will be a breeze.
Squash varieties available at N.C. fall markets include acorn, buttercup, butternut, and spaghetti. Squash come in different shapes, sizes and colors, but they are all distinctly delicious!
1 butternut squash, peeled & cubed
1 cup apple, cubed
1 pear, peeled & cubed
½ cup figs, chopped (may substitute with ¼ cup cranberries or raisins)
Ginger to taste
Coat a baking dish with cooking spray. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl, place into a baking dish and then coat with butter-flavored spray. Bake covered at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes until tender. To prepare in the microwave, cover and cook on high for 12 minutes.”
For more holiday recipes and ideas, check my blog at

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Healthy Options for the Holidays

“Diabetes Forecast”, a magazine from The American Diabetes Association is a great resource for those interested in Thanksgiving traditions with a healthy emphasis. The holidays can be very stressful if any of the family members have medical problems such as diabetes. However, all of us could use information to live healthier. There are tasty recipes that are lower in fat, calories, and carbohydrates designed to help us. The following information is written by Robyn Webb, MS, LN for the November 2010 publication.

“Despite its historical trappings, Thanksgiving, for most of us, is a holiday about food and family (and, often, the watching of televised sports). While it’s also a day for home cooks to show their stuff, the expectations of the people doing the eating are what shapes the menu, which may be why that menu doesn’t change much year after year. So, how do you keep your family’s tradition going when you’re also trying to stay healthy? We’ve tinkered with some of the stalwarts of the Thanksgiving table, stripping out fat and carbs while keeping the customary flavors very much intact. Think of it as a much-needed makeover.”

Rustic Mashed Potatoes With Olive Oil and Garlic
2 lbs. peeled and halved russet potatoes
14 peeled, whole garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
10 servings
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and garlic, and bring again to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer on low for about 25 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender.
2. Drain the potatoes, saving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the potatoes back to the pot. Place a dish towel over the pan, and replace the cover. Let the potatoes dry steam for 5 minutes.
3. Slowly add the cooking liquid to the potatoes, mashing well. Add the olive oil, and continue to mash the potatoes to the desired consistency. Add in the Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
Nutrition Facts
Starch exchanges 1
Fat exchanges 1
Amount per Serving
Calories 125
Calories from Fat 55
Total Fat 6 g
Saturated Fat 1.3 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 5 mg
Sodium 30 mg (without added salt)
Total Carbohydrate 16 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Sugars 1 g
Protein 3 g

Mashed Sweet Potatoes With Pineapple and Spices
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 5 oz. each)
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple in its own juice,
drained of juice except for 1/4 cup
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
8 servings
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 65 minute
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick the surface of the sweet potatoes with a fork. Place the sweet potatoes directly on the oven rack with a foil-lined baking sheet placed on the rack directly below it. Roast the sweet potatoes for about 45 minutes or until fork tender.
2. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Scoop the flesh from the sweet potatoes, discarding the skin. Add the flesh to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mash well.
3. Place the sweet potato mixture into a 4-cup casserole dish, and bake at 400°F for 20 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.
Nutrition Facts
Starch exchanges 0.5
Fruit exchanges 0.5
Amount per Serving
Calories 80
Calories from Fat 15
Total Fat 1.5 g
Saturated Fat 0.9 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 5 mg
Sodium 25 mg (without added salt)
Total Carbohydrate 16 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Sugars 8 g

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Health Rocks is Rocking!

Health Rocks is splashing and rocking again! A new session of Health Rocks has started this fall with 4th and 5th graders of Murphy Elementary School. Health Rocks is an after school program and is being sponsored by Teresa Wiley and Shannon Coleman with the NC Cooperative Extension Service. Health Rocks is a program that emphasizes nutrition and physical fitness. The Hiwassee Pool and Wellness Center is partnering with Health Rocks once again this semester. A group of approximately 24 students walks down to the wellness center on Mondays and Wednesdays after school. Once there they receive a brief nutrition lesson and a healthy snack featuring a food from the food guide pyramid and water. For this session the health rockers are fortunate to have Russell Mims instructing them in a kid’s boot camp. Russell, who also conducts adult boot camp classes at the wellness center has the kids running, doing push-ups and crunches. The Health Rockers have boot camp on Mondays and swim on Wednesdays. By the end of the 8-week program these kids are sure to improve their physical fitness levels. Several of the 5th graders are repeating the program from last fall. The extension service has provided this free after school program for 4th and 5th graders in the county since January of 2008. The Cherokee County elementary schools are currently rotated by the Extension Service with Health Rocks being offered to one school per semester. The Extension Service will send information home when Health Rocks is to be offered for your 4th or 5thgrader. Health Rocks is a fun way for kids to learn more about nutrition while improving their physical fitness level at the same time!

Photo left to right:
Brady Graves, Kendall Keating, Micah Nelson

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Homeschoolers Learn to Sew

Home Schooled students in Cherokee County, North Carolina are practicing their skills as they learn basic home sewing. After learning the parts of the sewing machine and how to thread the machine, they learned the basic terminology of sewing. After measuring and selecting their correct size, the next weeks involved cutting out and constructing a pair of pajama pants with an elastic waist. Emphasis is placed on the students being able to interpret the guide sheet and follow the instructions. Home sewing involves being able to think critically about the process and see the project as a three dimensional garment resulting from a flat piece of fabric. Students are encouraged to add their own creative touches to the pattern. For example, they were able to design their own pocket and decide where they would like for the pocket to be applied. This helps them to realize that many patterns can be altered to reflect individual taste and creativity.
After the pajama pants are completed, the students have expressed interest in a project that is not a garment. This will most likely be some sort of handbag or tote. Students will then have the opportunity to practice with trims, embroidery, and embellishments. Learning to sew is a life skill that is beneficial on many levels. Even if one does not care to sew their own clothes, knowing how to sew can help save money with home furnishings such as curtains and pillows. Sewing skills also help a person to complete minor clothing repairs and alterations. Finally, knowledge of sewing helps a shopper to be more discerning when looking at clothing quality and durability.