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Enchanting Train Show at The New York Botanical Garden

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Bits & Pieces Column

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By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

Here is a wonderful way to unwind from the stress and hectic pace during the crush of holiday preparations. Take time to enjoy the pleasures of a trip to the New York Botanical Garden to enjoy the Holiday Train Show and its exhibits. The New York Botanical Garden, a museum of plants and gardens, is located in the Bronx, New York. With the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, they are open year-round with fabulous presentations every season. Running from November 21, 2015 through January 18, 2016, the Holiday Train Show is one of the most anticipated family traditions of the season.

The nature-and-train display includes replicas of well-known, beloved New York buildings and historical landmarks, all created from plant parts such as berries, pinecones, leaves and seeds. It is a magical setting for adults and children alike. Guests are welcome to stroll through the magnificent Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, through various garden settings, and then on to the twinkling exhibits and displays. This year, the display is bigger than ever with more tracks and three thousand square feet of expanded exhibition space. This miniature wonderland has rivers, rustic bridges, wooded mountains, waterfalls cascading into creeks, forest tunnels, replicas of historic New York landmarks and a glittering, child-high Manhattan skyline. This year’s installation is the work of designer Paul Busse and his team at Applied Imagination, Ltd.

There are renditions of the American Museum of National History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space (home of the Hayden Planetarium) and four structures listed in New York City’s Historic House Trust. New this year are four dining venues including the Bavarian-themed Frosty’s Schnapps Haus and the Gingerbread Café, food trucks, and a children’s gingerbread playhouse with coloring and cookie-decorating activities. Be sure to visit The Garden Shop for unique and original gifts for those hard-to-shop-for people on your gift-giving list!

The New York Botanical Garden is located at Fordham Road and exit 7 of the Bronx River Parkway. It is easily reached by subway or Metro-North railroad.

Advance timed tickets are strongly recommended and are available at: www.nybg.org

Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more and can be arranged by calling the Botanical Garden’s Group Tours office at: (718) 817–8687

For more information about New York Botanical Garden programs, events and exhibits, call (718) 817–8700 or visit their website at: www.nybg.org

November 25, 2015 |

Just Like Mom Used

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

Years ago as newlyweds, I remember the long list of items we had to buy to stock our kitchen cabinets during those first weeks of marriage. From cleaning supplies, spices and pantry staples, the list was endless, and one of our most costly grocery bills for a one-time visit. For some reason I thought of that trip when recently I walked up and down the aisle of the supermarket. Not based on any marketing research study, I came to the conclusion that we tend to gravitate toward the same products/items that our mothers used.

Just looking into my pantry, I see items that were familiar to me from my own childhood home. Try to recall why you buy some of the items in your kitchen. Did your mother use Ajax or Comet to clean the sink? Mine used Ajax, and that is what I have been buying now for decades. Do you use the pink Brillo pads or the blue S.O.S. pads because your mom did? Of course, there are some products we just can’t find any longer such as Oxydol, a laundry soap, or Spic and Span, a powdery floor cleaning detergent.

Even the smell of the old time products can induce fond memories. My grandmother always used White Rain shampoo, and her hair had a fragrant, distinctive aroma to it that I loved. I bought White Rain for many years, just to remind me of my grandma. The shampoo is still around but the scent has changed, so the memory of that scent is all that’s left.

 

Windows

Today, most of us use a blue liquid product like Windex or similar brands. In my day (back in the 1950s), Glass Wax was the product of choice. Remember Glass Wax — that thick, creamy pink liquid that you applied to your window, let dry and then had to scrub to remove every bit of residue? The company even had a holiday sales pitch where a free stencil was attached to each can. The stencil was held against a window or mirror and you would dab Glass Wax on each stencil with an old rag. When the stencil was removed from the window you had Santa and his reindeer, a snowflake, a Christmas tree or any other holiday design, in pink. Instantly our windows became a winter wonderland! Ah, those were the days!

 

 

 

November 18, 2015 |

Cutting Corners on Spending

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Bits & Pieces Column

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By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

We are about to start the holiday shopping season, and it’s the time of year we are more likely to exceed our regular spending budget. So you don’t feel the impact too severely, here are some ways to cut back spending in other areas of your life which will leave more funds for gift purchases. It is also a good idea to continue these saving practices into the new year ahead so when the credit card bills roll in, the funds are there to pay them.
At the supermarket, look to buy generic for products that are usually similar to popular brands. In fact, store brands are often just as tasty and/or do the job just as well.  Store-brand napkins, paper towels or toilet tissue are typically less costly. When it comes to children’s snacks, store-brand pretzels, chips, nuts and yogurts taste just as good to a hungry student looking for an after-school snack. The same goes for economy-brand cake mixes, puddings and gelatin mixes. When it comes to other food items, store-brand salt, breadcrumbs and sugar can be less costly than national brands.
Look at your monthly cable bill. View your package and see if there is an alternate bundle that will lower your costs. A cousin of mine saved over $45 a month by reducing some movie channels that featured the same films he found on other stations. Speaking of movies, skip going to the regular theater for a while and plan movie nights at home. Libraries often stock fairly recent films that just went to DVD after appearing in theaters. Invite friends over, make some homemade snacks, and then enjoy the film and conversation critiquing it after viewing.
How many magazines come to your house each month? Do you really have time to read them all, or are they just piling up? Why not trade with a friend when he/she finishes reading them or just borrow them from your library? Most articles about gardening, travel or recipes remain relevant longer, so reading them weeks later will not matter.
Here is another idea about reordering; it concerns the checkbooks belonging to those readers who do not pay bills online. Is it necessary to pay extra for having designs on your checks such as cartoon characters or a scenic background? Order plain checks offered by the bank at a much lower cost instead.

November 11, 2015 |

Thanksgiving Menu Choices

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By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

November is here and supermarkets are featuring scrumptious food items for Thanksgiving “fixings.”  What’s not to like about roasted turkey, several sides and wonderful desserts?  When thinking about meal preparations, remember there are always healthier ways to celebrate the holiday and watch those calories.  The American Heart Association (AHA) reminds us that even small changes can be important, while not sacrificing taste at all. What you eat and how you prepare it can help reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease.  Risk factors include poor cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess weight.  These risk factors can be addressed by preparing tasty dishes without overdoing the salt, cholesterol and saturated fat. Studies show that nearly 80 percent of cardiovascular events, including stroke, may be prevented if risk factors are controlled.

One of the AHA’s suggestions is to skip the mashed white potatoes and go sweet! Sweet potatoes are a source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber and can make a tasty side dish or dessert. If you feel that “visually” you need something that looks like mashed potatoes, cook cauliflower instead. Boil the cauliflower until soft, drain and then whip with an electric beater. Sprinkle in onion or garlic powder for taste. Opt for less bread and add more onions, celery, or vegetables when making stuffing, or use fruits like dried cranberries or apples to make a lower calorie version. When making gravy or sauces, use low-fat buttermilk or low-sodium chicken stock in place of cream or whole milk. You’ll achieve a creamy consistency and loads of flavor, minus the unnecessary fat and calories.  Avoid packaged, processed foods that contain high salt contents.  Go with fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned and limit salt while you cook. If you are using packaged foods, look for the Heart-Check mark and you’ll instantly know which foods certified by the AHA meet their guidelines for heart-healthy foods.

When it’s time for dessert, think about fruit cobblers without a bottom crust and instead make a pie packed with more fruit, less sugar and only crumb topping.  Homemade pumpkin pie filling can be cooked without a crust in small individual Pyrex dishes. Thanksgiving will be just as memorable because it is the friends and family gathered around the table that is the reason to celebrate!

Happy Thanksgiving to our PennySaver readers, and may your holiday be happy and healthy!

November 4, 2015 |

Poison Control and Young Children

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Bits & Pieces Column

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By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

Here is a frightening statistic that is almost unbelievable but true. “Every seven minutes, a child under six years of age is sent to the emergency room because of accidental poisoning.” This translates to approximately 80,000 children under the age of five that go to the ER.
With the holidays approaching, many families may have small children visiting a home that may not be totally childproof; so here are some pointers to consider.
Most of us think of someone being harmed by a poison when it is taken orally.  However, there are many “routes of entry” besides ingestion. Poison can be inhaled or it can get into the body in a dermal manner, which is through skin contact. Of course, we cannot forget bites, which can arrive via insects, snakes or other animals. The final method is by injection, directly through a muscle or other body part. In each case, there are symptoms to look for if you suspect that someone has been a victim of an accidental poisoning.
What would you do if a young child were discovered with an open bottle of medicine, where some pills were scattered all over the floor?  If you know whether the bottle was full or how many had already been taken, this is vital information to provide to the Poison Control Center. Scoop up the pills from the floor and count how many are left from the total that came in the bottle. What should be the first reaction of the parent or caregiver?  Check the child’s mouth to see if it smells or is an unusual color. Look at the child’s eyes to see if they are constricted or abnormal in any way. Is their nose runny or bleeding?
A poison control number is manned 24 hours a day by physicians, pharmacists and toxicologists who can answer any questions you may have about the incident. The bottle of medicine, especially prescriptions, should be held while you make the call so you can read the name to the responder. Of course, if the child or adult is convulsing or unconscious, call 911 first. The poison help number is the same throughout the United States, so it can be called from any state. Their number is 1-800-222-1222.

October 28, 2015 |

Remodeling Your Kitchen

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Bits & Pieces Column

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By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

Renovating a kitchen is one of the most popular makeovers that can add value to a house or apartment.  It goes without saying that it is easy to spot an outdated room that has not been changed for decades.  In major makeovers, appliances, cabinets and flooring need to be replaced, so choices should be studied and analyzed before you begin.

Decisions

The choices are endless for cabinet color and design. Start looking through decorating magazines that specialize in kitchens. Remember white cabinets make a small kitchen appear larger and darker woods give a warm “homey” appearance. Visit scores of home design centers and bring room measurements, asking the professional to help you design a kitchen. Appointments may be necessary because each client is given time to discuss plans.  With the magic of computer design programs, the representative can show you what the finished product will look like. Do make sure you have a basic idea of what type of cabinets and “extras” you want to add.  A spice rack, pull-out trash drawer, wine rack, or cabinets with glass doors for displaying fine china are all extra and will boost the standard price quotes. However, a kitchen remodel is usually done once in a lifetime, so if your heart is set on certain features and it fits your budget, go for it.
Cabinet composition is another item to give some thought to. Solid wood cabinets are more expensive than particleboard.  You can choose solid wood doors and do the remainder in particleboard, but you will end up with a very heavy cabinet to hang. Installation is extra and not included in cabinet rates.  In some cases the installation cost can be almost half the price of the original cabinet cost.
This is a big investment and one that will bring you many years of pleasure when it is finished. If in the back of your mind the makeover is for an eventual resale, try to go neutral so potential buyers can imagine themselves in your kitchen.  Out-of-the-norm colors, wild patterns or over-the-top designs will appeal to a smaller segment of the population when prospective buyers come to shop.  Most new homeowners want to avoid the expense of doing a kitchen makeover, so if your choices are something they can live with, then all the better.

October 21, 2015 |

Maritime Aquarium Adventures!

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

Have you ever been to the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk? If the answer is “No,” then it is time you visited! A fabulous line-up of programs awaits guests during October. This is the only aquarium focused on presenting sharks, seals, river otters, sea turtles, jellyfish and more than one hundred other species from Long Island Sound and its watershed. In addition to a harbor seal feeding show held three times per day, three staffed “touch tanks” allow hands-on close encounters with intertidal animals, sharks, rays, and moon jellyfish.
“Go Fish!” explores our cultural relationship with the sea through fishing and the sustainable seafood movement. “Ocean Playspace” offers fun for toddlers and a rest for big people. “Marine Lab” shows visitors how marine animals are cared for and how baby seahorses and jellies are raised. “Meerkats” features six very entertaining meerkats.
Batman and Wonder Woman fans can meet and pose with them on Saturday, October 17th. Kids are encouraged to wear their own superhero costumes. Come join the “Aqua-Scarium” on Saturday, October 31st, where kids in costume get free admission to the aquarium. The “Aqua-Scarium” itself will be ghoulishly decorated for Halloween, with the possibility that wolffish, mummichogs and sculpins could transform into were-wolffish, mummy-chogs and skull-pins. Spider Man will make a live appearance that day, too!
The aquarium’s IMAX® movie screen is Connecticut’s first and largest. The six-story-tall screen is fantastic! See Flight of the Butterflies and go on a scientific adventure to follow the incredible yearlong migration cycle of millions of monarch butterflies from Canada, across the U.S. and into Mexico. Born to be Wild and Great White Shark are two more IMAX® films on exhibit at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. The Humpback Whales are featured in another IMAX® movie. Swim, dive, leap and sing alongside some of the largest animals on Earth.
Humpback whales were nearly driven to extinction fifty years ago, but today are making a steady recovery. Join a team of researchers as they seek out what makes humpbacks the most acrobatic of all whales, why only the males sing, and why these intelligent fifty-foot, forty-eight-ton animals migrate more than 6,000 miles every year.
There is so much to see at the aquarium that you will want to visit there repeatedly. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk
10 N. Water Street, Norwalk, CT
(203) 852-0700, www.MaritimeAquarium.org

October 14, 2015 |
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