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Autumn Splendor and Pumpkin Flavors

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Bits & Pieces Column

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by Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

Each year the warm colors of autumn inspire me to shift the interior decor of our house away from the pastel tones of summer. Changes do not have to be costly, and over the years sale purchases have been made to reflect a seasonal makeover that is both easy and inexpensive. Think of the red, gold, orange, rust, browns, and deep maroon colors we see on the changing leaves.

There are easy projects that will give your home a cozy, autumn feeling now that more time will be spent indoors. Walk around your house and review each room, making mental notes of potential changes. I started with our kitchen and switched to placemats depicting falling leaves and took out hand towels with similar patterns. A new floor mat by the sink also reflects that theme. We have one wall where I replace framed pictures according to season and switch to a beautiful fall scene from a summer fruit one. Dining room changes are made simple by just changing the tablecloth to a fall color and replacing pastel candles on the holders. The centerpiece is an autumn arrangement of silk flowers. On the coffee table I have a large bowl of colorful, miniature gourds to complement the room décor as well as cloth placemats with fall images placed beneath the lamps.

Garden Centers

This is a beautiful time of year to visit your local garden center for decorating both the interior and exterior of your home. I love to see homes where the front steps or lawn have gorgeous chrysanthemums, haystacks, Indian corn clusters on the door, and corn husk decorations. And of course, the most important decoration for autumn — pumpkins! Placing several pumpkins on the front steps is both a welcoming and a pleasurable sight.

Speaking of the glorious pumpkin, don’t forget to enjoy the flavors of the season that are just about everywhere you look now. Advertisers jump on the proverbial bandwagon to boast about their menus and baked goods that include pumpkin flavors. My daughter called us the last week of September just to say, “It’s started.” and I questioned “What?” She laughed and said “pumpkin season!” and had her first pumpkin latte that day. Now we will see pumpkin pancakes, muffins, donuts and pies on restaurant menus. Last year I even noticed one ice cream company offered “a limited edition” pumpkin flavored ice cream.

Several years ago our other daughter, whose specialty is pasta dishes, found a recipe for ravioli and sausage with a pumpkin sauce from a Rachel Ray cookbook. When she invited us for dinner and told me what she was serving, I was a bit hesitant about what it would taste like since it was replacing the typical red sauce. We were pleasantly surprised! Our other daughter continually teases her somewhat timid parents when it comes to trying something new…“Step out of the box,” she chides. We have, and the reward is often worth it. I can’t imagine someone who doesn’t care for pumpkin flavor and will miss out on the treats in store just for this time of year.

Happy autumn!

 

 

 

 

October 31, 2018 |

Halloween Safety

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

It is fun to see homes all decked out in both Halloween and autumn décor, signaling the end of one season and the start of another. For young children, Halloween excitement surrounding both fun and CANDY is building whether they go trick-or-treating or attend parties.

It is up to parents and caregivers to be extra vigilant when it comes to keeping children safe during these festivities. It goes without saying that an adult should accompany young children when they go trick-or-treating. Some towns organize parades or Halloween parties sponsored by civic groups or school organizations. These are also fun for children, eliminating the need to go door-to-door. However, if your child will be going out on Halloween night, here are some tips from the U.S. Government General Services Administration and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that parents should keep in mind.

Safety

When shopping for a costume, try to coax your child into choosing a brightly colored costume that is visible and that will make it easier for cars to see them on dark roads. For darker colored costumes, stick some reflective tape on the costume to increase visibility. Also put tape on the tote bags they are using to hold their candy. Make sure they are carrying a flashlight or glow stick. Use face paint instead of a mask that might obstruct their view.   Before the holiday, test all makeup to insure the child is not allergic to its ingredients. Avoid costumes that are below their shoe line or have flowing capes or skirts that might cause them to trip. Make sure your child’s Halloween costume is flame resistant in the event a cape or part of the costume does come in contact with a flame. (Some homes might have candles inside of carved pumpkins on the front porch or steps.)

It is tempting for children to eat the treats they are receiving along the way, but try to advise them not to do this. Discard any candy that looks opened or partially unwrapped or contains homemade goods if you do not personally know the giver. It seems such a shame to discard homemade items, but it’s better to err on the side of safety rather than worry about wasting food.

Perhaps an even better option might be to give out gift certificates. Some fast food establishments offer really low cost coupon booklets with coupons for free cones, cookies or small burgers. This is a smart marketing idea, as the restaurants know that parents will also come and order a meal for themselves or older children when they hand in the Halloween coupon for a free item.

While on the subject of checking the treats children receive, parents of very young children should remove items that contain choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys before the child gets hold of them.

Pedestrian safety is vital and children should be cautioned against running out between parked cars or across lawns and yards where ornaments, furniture, clotheslines or lawn sprinklers present dangers. Sturdy shoes or sneakers are a must, and mommy’s high heels should be avoided for little girls’ dress-up costumes.

Wishing everyone a safe, fun and Happy Halloween!

October 24, 2018 |

‘Phantom’ Arrives at the Westchester Broadway Theatre!

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By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

An outstanding production of Phantom opened at the Westchester Broadway Theatre (WBT) in September. Running until January 27th, with a hiatus for the yearly holiday production, and then returning December 27th, this is one of the BEST WBT shows imaginable!

Based on the classic novel Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, Phantom was written by Arthur Kopit, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and music direction by Bob Bray. While it is a musical, dialogue draws the audience into the plight of every character on the stage of this large cast of over 23 performers. From the fabulous set design, the creative mechanics on stage when the Phantom disappears beneath the surface of the stage, this mystical, romantic, sometimes sinister story line instantly engages the audience. At the dinner theatre audiences will feel as if they are in an ornate opera house watching productions with each wardrobe change of the cast. Mist rises from the stage, the Phantom lurks in the shadows dressed in his long black cape, appearing menacing, yet it is easy to feel sympathy for this disfigured man and his years of isolation.

The Story

The central character, Erik (the Phantom), was born and raised in the catacombs under the Paris Opera House. Through a series of circumstances, he takes on as a pupil a young woman named Christine, who has been a street singer. She has a natural talent and a beautiful voice, but lacks the special training to perform in an Opera company. He agrees to take her on as a student with certain conditions, the main one being that she will never see his face.

Casting is excellent and the two leads, Matthew Billman (Phantom) and Kayleen Seidl (Christine) have voices that gave forth chills as they sang. Billman’s commanding voice took over the stage, with the dramatics of each of his comings and goings —with a swoop of his cape— back into the inner sanctions of the Opera House.

The chemistry between the two was believable and it was difficult not to root for this star-crossed romance. Strong supporting roles included James Van Treuren (Gérard Carrière), who cared for the Phantom during his years in hiding, Larry Luck (Count Philippe de Chandon) Christine’s other love interest, Kilty Reidy (Alaine Cholet), and Sandy Rosenberg (Carlotta).

The standing ovation at the finale demonstrated that this show has it all, with the acting, singing, music, scenery, choreography and over the top special effects. Don’t miss it! Holidays are coming and gift certificates or a night out with friends and family would be perfect for dinner and Phantom.

 

For Reservations: call (914) 592-2222 or visit: www.BroadwayTheatre.com

October 17, 2018 |

Pumpkin Blaze Extravaganza and Other Attractions

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Bits & Pieces Column

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By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

 

What would Halloween be without pumpkins and spooky activities? Imagine a place to visit where thousands of these are on display and provide a great way for family and friends to celebrate the beautiful autumn season. Adults coming without children will enjoy this outing as well!

Once again The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze®, the Hudson Valley’s biggest all-ages fall extravaganza, will run for a record 45 select evenings from late September through Thanksgiving weekend. The walk-through experience lights up the wooded pathways, orchards, and gardens of historic Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., where a small team of artists hand-carve more than 7,000 jack o’lanterns and elaborate pumpkin sculptures. Visitors will love seeing Blaze favorites, such as a giant spider web and the mammoth sea serpent, and will be awed by more pumpkin power than ever before! New additions include a medieval castle guarded by a flock of Jack O’Lantern owls, a functioning windmill, and a full set of Instagrammable zodiac signs. The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze Shop offers a full bounty of Blaze-specific merchandise including candles, hats, T-shirts, magnets, caps, mugs, and jewelry. An onsite café also sells refreshments.

Visit the Horseman’s Hollow at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. to experience Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at its most terrifying extremes. Visitors will walk a haunted trail where creatures lurk in the shadows, ready to strike fear into the hearts of those brave enough to venture into the darkness. Professional actors, award-winning feature-film makeup artists, and state-of-the-art special effects make the Horseman’s Hollow experience all too real. This 16-night haunted attraction at Philipsburg Manor is recommended for ages ten and up.

Also at Philipsburg Manor is The Unsilent Picture, a brand-new event for 2018. The immersive theater experience features an original black and white film starring Tony Award-winning actor Bill Irwin accompanied by musicians and an in-the-flesh special effects Foley artist. The movie, which was commissioned by Historic Hudson Valley and shot on location in buildings at Van Cortlandt Manor, is the center of this 16-night experience. It is recommended for ages ten and up and contains scenes of drinking alcohol, smoking and snuff tobacco use, implied violence, and mature themes.

There are more opportunities to be captivated by Irving’s Legend than ever before. Master storytellers Jonathan Kruk and Jim Keyes, accompanied by live organ music bring to life The Legend of Sleepy Hollow during afternoon and evening performances at Sleepy Hollow’s circa-1685 Old Dutch Church. Irving’s Legend runs for 16 select dates in October and is recommended for ages ten and up. All events are held rain or shine. Proceeds support Historic Hudson Valley, the Tarrytown-based private, non-profit educational organization that owns and operates the historic sites that host these events.

Information

These events have limited capacity and sell out quickly. All admissions are by advance purchase timed tickets.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling 914-366-6900. There is a $2 per ticket surcharge for phone orders and for tickets purchased onsite (if available).

 

October 10, 2018 |

An Apple a Day…

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Bits & Pieces Column

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By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

While I’m not sure how accurate the old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is, I’m sure it has something to do with the health benefits of eating fruit. There are scores of fruits I enjoy, but perhaps the most versatile for both cooking and recipe use is the apple. I can easily name about 8 varieties; however, it is hard to conceive that there are thousands of them today. They are used in both sweet desserts and for inclusion in other main course meals to add either a sweet or sour taste.

Think about how often the apple is mentioned in both literature and science. From the Bible with Adam and Eve, to Newton, who it is believed discovered gravity when an apple fell on his head, and to the stories of John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed and his travels planting apple trees in the Ohio wilderness. How often have we seen still life paintings with a bowl of apples on the table? To name a few, these can be viewed in the works of painters Cézanne, Crivelli and Courbet.

The best use for apples is in two of my favorite recipes, one of which was introduced to me by my mother-in-law, who was a wonderful cook. I now make her recipe for a German Apfel Kuchen (Apple Cake). Applesauce is also an easy recipe to make with children.

Apples are in season now, so take advantage of the good prices and fresh produce and try these and other recipes!

Apfel Kuchen

Ingredients

  • 4 -5 cups baking apples, Granny Smith (or other)
  • 1 14 cups white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 12 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 34 cup sugar
  • 1 12 tablespoons white flour
  • 12 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Mix 1 1/4 cup flour, baking powder, 2 tsp sugar, and salt and sift once.
  • Cut 1/2 cup butter into dry mix with a pastry blender to pea size.
  • In a small bowl, beat egg with 2 tbs milk and add to dry mix.
  • Mix thoroughly and pat dough into a greased or oiled 9×13-inch baking dish.
  • Pare and core apples, then cut into thin wedge slices and place on dough in rows until covered.
  • Dot apples with 2 tbs butter and mix 3/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tbs flour and cinnamon together.
  • Spread dry topping over dotted apples, and bake in oven for 30-45 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream

 

Homemade Applesauce

 

www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/quick-easy-applesauce-438881

 

 

October 3, 2018 |

Film Festival for Movie Buffs Coming!

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Bits & Pieces Column

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By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

 

If you love films and discussions about them, here is the perfect film festival for a weekend getaway on the East End of Long Island. The Hampton International Film Festival’s (HIFF) 26th annual event runs over the Columbus day weekend (October 4-8, 2018). What is this event? HIFF was founded to celebrate the Independent film – long, short, fiction and documentary, and to introduce a unique, varied spectrum of international films and filmmakers to the public. The Festival is committed to exhibiting films that express fresh voices and differing global perspectives, with the hope that these programs will enlighten audiences, provide invaluable exposure for filmmakers and present inspired entertainment for all.

Ardent followers and movie buffs will once again be treated to outstanding films, the chance to see many of the celebrities appearing or directing in them, and the opportunity to attend workshops, lectures and seminars that delve into the world of film making. Over the years the selection committee that accepts films to this prestigious film festival has chosen many that have gone on to become both critically acclaimed and/or commercial successes. Some of the most successful films from the long list include The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Black Swan, Toy Story 3, Waiting for Superman, Blue Valentine, Made in Dagenham, Miral, Slum Dog Millionaire, and The Artist. Documentaries, shorts and international films are also part of these richly diverse selections which are offered along with special programs such as its “Conversation with…,” the annual Kodak Cinematography Master Class, Breakthrough Performers, Animation Master Class, as well as the attendance of notable talent.

Opening Night Film

Writer/Director Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarten Teacher will be the Opening Night Film on Thursday October 4th. The film stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Rosa Salazar, and Gael García Bernal. It tells the story of a kindergarten teacher who seeks to cultivate the poetic talents of one of her students with questionable methods. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Colangelo will both be in attendance at the festival.

With over 100 films offered by HIFF the list is certainly extensive and diverse with enough choices to entice viewers of all ages and tastes. “We are elated to kick off our 26th edition of the festival with a film from one of our Screenwriters Lab alumna and to also announce an eclectic and intriguing first group of films with narratives and themes that are sure to resonate with our audiences,” said David Nugent, Artistic Director of HIFF. “To be able to include so many completed feature films from our prestigious Screenwriters Lab is truly a dream come true, especially for our opening night,” said Anne Chaisson, Executive Director of HIFF. “For eighteen years our lab has mentored over 75 screenwriters, and these three films from female directors offer diverse perspectives and have all garnered critical acclaim this year.”

 

For more about HIFF visit: www.hamptonsfilmfest.org

 

September 26, 2018 |

Old Fashioned Words Rarely Heard Now

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Bits & Pieces Column

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By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

As technology propels us into a realm of words and expressions we’ve never imagined, some words have quickly faded from use. I’m sure many teens of today will not even know what some of these words meant or what the items are used for in everyday life.

Just the other day a Donna Summer’s song came on the radio that had the line “dim all the lights and put your old victrola on” as one of the stanzas. I am positive this word would most likely be a mystery to most people 40 and under. This invention was a phonograph from the Victor Talking Machine Company in New Jersey, but eventually the word became the generic term for any brand of phonograph back in the day. My grandmother had one, and I remember as a child that the turntable was powered by winding up with a handle that made the springs move. She stood by to make sure I didn’t “overwind.”

Two other words that took on names from the real product were Thermos for a vacuum bottle and Jell-O for any brand of gelatin. These were very popular products back in the 1950s.

Lost Vocabulary

Who remembers wearing galoshes when it was raining? How did you put them on yourself or when dressing your children? To make it easier to slide your shoes inside your galoshes we put used Wonder Bread bags over each shoe. Imagine the schoolteachers who had to direct this same process at the end of the day when it was dismissal time.

How about when it was time to bake a cake and the recipe called for beating two or three eggs to pour into the batter? That’s when an eggbeater came in handy! Speaking of beaters, my grandmother had a carpet beater, made of wicker. It had a long handle and ornate bottom, shaped like a flower. She took the small area rug outside, hung it over the clothesline and then beat the rug so the dust would fly out. Speaking of clotheslines, some adults might think why use one when you can throw things in the dryer. There is nothing more refreshing than sheets and pillowcases hung out to dry in the sun. By the way, a snippet I read in the PennySaver stated that “Clothes dried outside do smell better because of a process called photolysis. What happens is that the sunlight breaks down compounds in the laundry that cause odor, such as perspiration and body oils.” Don’t forget to have a supply of wooden clothespins on hand, skipping the plastic ones, to really go back in time.

When it comes to gadgets, how many youngsters have used a rotary phone or even a typewriter with ribbon? Think about the heavy, first time Walkman portable audio player that everyone thought was the best invention ever! Now it’s long gone and obsolete.

Both vocabulary and the useful items we thought were so great move on at a rapid pace, yet in memory remain on the nostalgic list of days gone by.

 

September 19, 2018 |
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