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Cooking Lessons with Children

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Summer is here and it is time to think of activities to engage our children. This can be the perfect time to teach a child basic lessons about cooking or to discover new recipes that each family member might like. Although a young child may not be able to read, following recipes alongside of the parent can produce a world of experiences. Start with simple recipes like making muffins or cookies, and you will see how much can be taught.  Math is introduced when measuring cups of flour, teaspoons of baking powder or adding two eggs.   Fractions come into play when baking, and the child will see quarter of a cup of sugar, one third of a stick of butter and even learn what a “pinch” of salt is if required. Terminology like mix, stir, pour or blend, are new vocabulary words that children will learn when the parent lets them take turns with the batter mixture.  When it is time to pour into the muffin tins, hand-eye coordination takes over as the child tries to delicately pour or spoon the batter into the muffin tin.  Science lessons take over as the semi-liquid batter turns “solid” after being baked.  The best part about this cooking lesson is that the child and family get to enjoy their efforts.
Older children will discover new lessons in the kitchen when the parent stresses the importance of sanitary conditions, reading directions closely and making sure all the ingredients are in the pantry before getting started. How often have we started a complicated baking project only to find out we did not have baking powder or enough eggs on hand?  Either the recipe had to be abandoned or we stopped midway and ran out for the missing item.  For the reading child, it is also important to show them how to read the expiration dates on products and where to find this information, to make sure the ingredients are the freshest available for consumption.
Making some family favorites “from scratch” is a nice idea when time allows.  Instead of jar pasta sauce or packaged meatballs, old time family recipes are a great way to keep these treasured favorites alive in the household.  Simple, yet delicious recipes can be doubled and half-used that day and the other half-frozen for future dinners showing children how the most can be made with simple, yet enduring recipes.  Best of all, these recipes are less expensive and healthier than the ready-made, prepared products busy families depend upon when time is tight.

 

 

 

 

 

July 8, 2015 |

Ordering Floral Arrangements

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Summer welcomes the wedding season and floral shops will be blooming with orders. There are also the unexpected events that come into our lives where a sympathy arrangement needs to be sent in memory of a loved one or close friend. There are several pointers to be kept in mind to assure your order is exactly what you requested.
Communicating with the salesperson is mostly done when a huge binder is produced displaying photos of arrangements. I’d suggest that you research online the options of arrangements and prices before heading into the florist shop. Then you have a choice to order over the phone or go into the shop prepared with your decision. Orders placed out of your area will be filled by another florist in that locale and both the phone call and delivery charge will be added to your bill. When your order is placed, be sure the florist on the other end has the same number next to the photograph in their binder as the florist shop you are ordering from.
Years ago we ran into this problem when we paid for a more expensive arrangement to be sent and the florist in the state we were sending the flowers to had a different number in their binder. A smaller, less impressive arrangement showed up to the recipient. Our order was a huge, standing wreath that was supposed to be made of giant flowers, consisting of spider mums and other large mum varieties. The wreath in the photograph was extremely large and impressive, which was what we expected. What was delivered to the funeral home was a wreath on a stand, comprised of small yellow and white flowers that looked “skimpy” in comparison to what we ordered. Still a respectable-looking arrangement, but not the dollar value for which we had paid.
Two other notes I would like to add is to make sure you slowly spell the name of the recipient and make sure that it is repeated back to you. This information is related to the other florist and that is what is written on the card. Also, try to buy flowers that are in season for the best value for your dollar. Your florist will be able to advise you which flowers are more plentiful, seasonal, and will make the most beautiful arrangement for your money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 1, 2015 |

Music Under the Stars

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Living in the Hudson Valley area, one would think most families are familiar with and have visited the West Point Military Academy in West Point, New York. I am completely amazed when I tell people we’ve attended a concert or event on the grounds and learn that people are unaware of these events open to the public. The summer is the perfect time to acquaint yourself with the fabulous concerts offered at West Point and throughout the area, when the band travels. The West Point band is comprised of graduates of the finest music schools and the professional soldier-musicians of the West Point band are honored to provide world-class music to educate, train and inspire the Corps of Cadets and to serve as ambassadors of the United States Military Academy and the army to local, national and international communities.
The Concert Band performs concerts, military ceremonies, and at athletic events for the United States Corps of Cadets. The ensemble can be heard around the Greater Hudson Valley, New York City, and throughout the United States. The band’s storied history features performances for U.S. Presidents, heads of state, foreign dignitaries, and continues to be invited to participate in high-profile events in the New York metropolitan area, at locations such as Yankee Stadium, MetLife Stadium, and the Statue of Liberty. They have performed at major venues, including Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Tanglewood, and the Meyerson Symphony Center. They also maintain a close association with the New York Yankees, utilizing the full performing ensemble and chamber groups for high-profile games. Recently, the Concert Band began an annual collaboration with the New Jersey Ballet. Members of the Concert Band have also been featured on the History Channel, Fox News, CNN, and ESPN. As performers and educators, the musicians of the West Point Band continue to present provocative performances while providing the Corps of Cadets with a piece of living history.
Upcoming concerts at Trophy Point: June 27 at 7:30 pm “Heroes and Villains,” July 4th Independence Day Concert 8 pm,
July 18th Dancing Under the Stars at 7:30 pm and July 25th Songs of the Long Grey Line at 7:30 pm. Invite your friends, pack a blanket or lawn chairs and enjoy these free concerts! Visit www.usma.edu/band/SitePages/Home.aspx for additional concert dates and locations. For concert information, cancellations and updates call the West Point Band’s hot line at (845) 938-2617.

June 24, 2015 |

Play Dates for Children

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Working parents with preschool-aged children often find that there is little time for extra curricular activities during their busy workweek. When the weekend rolls around, it is catching-up time for household chores and grocery shopping. On rare occasions, there may be time for the parents to have company or to go to dinner and a movie. What about the socialization needs of the young child? According to a director of a preschool, this aspect of the small child’s development is one that is mostly overlooked. Parents may feel that the child had a busy week in preschool and has a room full of toys to keep busy with, so that is enough. But it is not.
No matter how hectic your schedule is, there is always some way to fit in a play date for your preschooler. Visits with friends the same age are important for many reasons. It teaches the child how to share on a one-to-one basis, without a teacher or parent constantly supervising the situation. Children learn to verbalize more when they try to communicate ideas to the play date visitor. It also is a wonderful way for the child to learn that not everything can be the way he or she wants it to be and someone else’s ideas or opinions count, too.
It is easy to recognize children not used to playing with other children. At birthday parties, they are either extremely shy or overactive and want to take over or command every aspect of the party. Tears erupt when they are not first in line for any games or they did not receive the biggest piece of cake. Exchanging play dates and letting the young child visit another home is one way of introducing the child to minor periods of separation that are different from a school setting.
The key to a successful play date is to make sure your child is not apprehensive about pick-up time. Keep the first few dates short, perhaps only and hour or two long. Working parents can arrange a Saturday morning play date, so they can do errands while the children are playing. The following weekend, the other family can host the child. This way parents have some free time and the child learns to adapt to another household’s rules, customs and the play territory of the friend they are visiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 17, 2015 |

Ready Your Car for Vacation!

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

The family car is the most popular method of transportation, so finding ways to make your excursion more cost efficient should be a number one priority. We routinely keep up maintenance on our cars, but learned more tips watching a morning news program that featured a representative from the American Automobile Association (AAA).
Maintenance
Make sure your car is in tip-top shape before you contemplate a lengthy journey by having your mechanic check and tune it. The cost of this check-up will probably save you money on fuel consumption when your car is running at its peak. When is the last time you changed the oil, air filter, and any of the hoses? Make sure you have your cooling system checked to make sure your car does not overheat while driving. Tires in excellent condition are important for your personal safety and for a comfortable ride. Read the manual that comes with your automobile to find out the proper inflation pressure for your vehicle. Check this pressure every couple of weeks during normal driving and several times during long vacation driving. Generally, the best time to check your tires is when they are cold. Tires that are under-inflated may overheat and cause a blowout or loss of control. Recent government recommendations suggest replacing your tires more frequently than once was estimated. Whether or not you put high mileage on your car, experts say that tires eventually “dry out” and should be replaced more frequently than previous standards.
Fuel Costs
One of the best rules for saving on fuel is the easiest and that is to stay within the posted speed limit. Driving faster simply eats up more fuel and that is a fact. Enjoy the scenery, take in the sights, and arrive safely, which is the most important part of your trip. Avoid quick starts and stops while driving. Sudden surges and quick stops continue to gobble up fuel unnecessarily. Lighten up your load, taking only what is necessary so the weight of your car will be lighter. Watch your gauges during your trip, making sure you never get down to a quarter of a tank before refueling. This way you have plenty of time to watch for good prices along the road and will not have to settle for a higher price just because you are near “empty.” This is important, too, when you are driving in unfamiliar areas and are not certain when the next service station will appear. Being aware and finding ways to conserve fuel and keeping your car in perfect condition can help that vacation get off the ground without breaking the family budget. Wishing all you summer travelers a happy, safe and economic journey that lets you discover wonderful memories down the road!

 

 

 

 

 

June 10, 2015 |

Gifts for the Graduate

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Graduations are exciting and sentimental times in a family’s life. Whether the student is graduating from high school or college, the emotions are the same. As parents, we think about the years that have flown by and how our “child” is now entering a more adult environment. For the student, graduating from high school and leaving for college opens the doors of new challenges where he or she will be responsible for many decisions. College graduates will make presentations during interviews to sell themselves as a product this company cannot do without.  This is the time for celebrating the accomplishments of the student.
Gifts
What kind of present do you give the graduating student that fits the occasion? Perhaps you have a grandchild, neighbor, niece or nephew that will be graduating soon. You could give a check, but this time around you might want to be more creative in your gift selection. If going off to college, there is a list of needed items. Basic items would be a small microwave, radio-alarm clock, popcorn popper and other household appliances.
It is easier to shop for the college graduate entering the business world. Maybe their first plan after graduation is to make a trip abroad with friends, because they know this will be the last vacation for a while. From the end of May to the end of June, Europe is filled with college students visiting the fascinating sights of the various countries. A gift could be luggage, a calculator to convert to international currencies, a small camera, portable hair dryer or an electrical adaptor. You could also purchase currency for the country they plan on visiting.
Time is Money
A cousin’s son related this interesting point during his first job interview after college and earning a degree in business. During one of the interviews, the potential employer asked him what time it was. He glanced down at his watch and gave the time. The interviewer smiled and said he was pleased to see the young man was wearing a watch.  He continued with his explanation of why he asked what time it was.  This was a mini-test. He wanted to make sure any future employee was wearing a watch because it meant he or she knew what time it was at the moment. In this busy office there were constant meetings, appointments and clients to meet. If an interviewee came in without a watch on, it showed this employer that the person was not concerned with time. This could translate into possibly coming into work late each day and maybe arriving late for a critical presentation. While you may not agree with this employer’s opinion or observation, it is an insider’s peek into what a future employer may be thinking. So, a new watch, with a more adult design, would be a nice present for a new graduate entering the job market. Another idea is a sturdy, leather briefcase or attaché case for carrying papers, or lunch, back and forth.
Whatever present you eventually decide upon, I know the graduate will be appreciative. It is not so much the cost of the gift, but the love and support you are showing that is behind it.  Taking these giants steps into the adult world is often a delicate balance for the student. Knowing there is the love, support and encouragement from loved ones behind them will make this transition a little easier.

 

 

 

 

June 3, 2015 |

Teaching Teens About Checking Accounts

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

High-school graduations are approaching and soon teens that are off to college will have to learn new things on their own, including handling money. While the student is still at home you can go over various points about finances, checking accounts, credit cards, and how to save money on unnecessary fees.
Perhaps the student worked a summer job and saved some money. Opening a checking account while the student is at home will allow parents time to review and coach their students on its use and how to handle it. Start shopping around for the best banking rates and charges for a new account. Many banks offer special discounts to students that may include no monthly or per check fees. Some banks will give clients with a savings account at their bank a better price for an attached checking feature. Other banks may waive fees, if the student writes a limited number of checks each month.
Compare bank prices to see what service works best for your student’s needs and potential check-writing expenses. Some banks will link a student’s checking account to a parent’s account to discount fees, yet maintain the privacy of the parents’ funds. For our family, we found it better to have one parent also on the student’s account, so we could make transactions if the student was not available to do so. Full access is allowed if both names are on the account. We linked our daughter to our savings account, because we did not need checking and had one in another bank. This bank offered free checks to her because of our other accounts at the same bank.
We take it for granted that our children are taking advanced math and calculus, so that handling a bank account with several hundred dollars should be easy. When the monthly statement comes in, be sure to impress upon your student the importance of inspecting each statement for accuracy. Show them how to balance the checkbook, read the statement and deduct fees for check printing or check writing, if there are any posted on the statement. Stress the importance of keeping all deposit slips, especially if a cash deposit was made.
ATM Machines
Students are fond of ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) for quick and easy cash withdrawals. Before making withdrawals they should find out what the fee is for this service. Some banks have higher rates and should be avoided or visited less frequently.
There is a whole new world of financial education that your student will have to embark on along with his or her studies at college. These are learning tools that will follow students for the rest of their lives. Give them a head start on these important skills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 27, 2015 |
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