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Ideas for Leftover Foreign Currency

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

For those readers that have made trips abroad this summer and have returned home with small amounts of that country’s currency, what do you do with it? Most often the coins or small paper bills are stored in a desk or jar, left unused. Most “souvenir coins” are too small to exchange back to U.S. currency, but they are a nice reminder of a vacation. Speaking of exchanges, if you have a large amount of currency left over, exchange it promptly once you return home. Recently a friend came across money from a trip to Barbados in the 1980s and went to the bank to exchange it. Luckily it was only about fifty dollars. The bank teller said that “in some foreign countries the money expires if you don’t turn it in within their set time frame,” and this was the case here.

 

Displaying Money

 

Years ago we ate in an international restaurant in Virginia. They had a unique display of coins and bills from around the world. Even patrons began to add to the decoration if they saw some coins or bills were missing. They began to give the owner currency “to add to your collection.” Unbelievable to see was that it was a huge frame hung fairly low on the wall above a large seating area and it did not have a glass frame over the display. In other words, the coins and bills were reachable if an unkind patron were to remove one. None were removed as the printed names of each country had currency below it. If you have currency that you would like to display there are many ways to do that. Bookstores sell special binders or insert sheets where coins can be inserted for safe keeping. These loose-leaf pages can be put in a binder as a collection of overseas trips. Perhaps you are handy with a craft glue gun and would like to turn several coins into magnets for your refrigerator. Arts and craft stores have rows of shadow boxes or small wooden plaques that can be stained or painted as the backdrop for your coins that are glued to it. If you have a friend that is a school teacher that has geography units as part of the curriculum, some coins can be used as a teaching tool. Then again, if you know of someone traveling to the country for which you have leftover money, you can always give it to he or she to use.

September 20, 2017 |

School Lunch Packing Begins Again

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

Making a child’s school lunch is easy for about the first two months of school. Then the challenge begins on how to make the lunch “exciting” and healthy at the same time. Because children consume 35-50% of their daily calories in school, healthy lunches are doubly important. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), one in three American children and teens are overweight, even obese; triple the rate in 1963. Later in life this can translate to high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. So here are a few budget-friendly ideas from the AHA for making children a healthy lunch and keeping them happy.

Creative Sandwiches

Make a smarter sandwich using different breads like 100% whole wheat tortilla wraps or whole wheat pita pockets. In addition to lettuce and tomato, try shredded carrot or zucchini and thinly sliced cucumbers, peppers or apple or pear, especially on a turkey or chicken sandwich. Children’s tastes are more sophisticated nowadays, so many will enjoy avocado or hummus as a swap for cheese or mayo. Dinner leftovers are also good, with grilled chicken being very versatile.

Speaking of leftovers, last night’s dinner can appear in a lunch thermos the next day. Think about giving your child leftover vegetable or bean soup or a veggie-filled chili made with lean beef or ground chicken. Kids love spaghetti or curly pasta salad, which can be loaded with diced vegetables for a tasty lunch. Snacks or treats after lunch doesn’t always mean it has to be candy or cookies. Kids love to “dunk” their snacks. Having apple and pear slices to dip into low-fat plain yogurt or peanut butter works nicely. Cortland, Empire and Ginger Gold apples brown at a slower rate than other apples, so they are more appealing later in the day. Try to avoid packing sugary drinks like “power” drinks, soda or juices with added sugar to your child’s lunch box or home meals. Water or school-purchased milk is a great option to reduce sugar in the diet. Substitute crunchy cut veggies or fruit for the fried, fatty chips.

Try to get your child involved in coming up with lunch ideas, too. If they help to pack their lunches, they’re more likely to eat that lunch! On nights you have a bit more time, like a Sunday night, have them choose which piece of fruit or what type of whole grain bread they want and let them assemble their lunch. Make this a weekly routine as another great way to spend family time together.

September 13, 2017 |

Childhood Memories Evoked by Special Foods

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

Do you remember when the sound of the Good Humor truck’s bells sent your heart racing? Who can forget such tasty treats as coco­nut, chocolate éclair or toasted almond ice cream pops? You can still buy them in the supermarket, but the impact is not the same as waiting for that magical truck to appear on a summer evening.

Certain foods have connections to our childhood that can bring back wonderful memories. Who remembers the popular NYC restaurant chain, Horn & Hardart (H&H)? As a little girl, trips to the city with my grandmother always included lunch at the “auto­mat.” What was an automat? It was a cafeteria with an unusual way of serving its offerings. There was a whole wall of little glass windows, similar to post office boxes that some people use to receive mail. Above the windows was the name of the item inside. Customers peered in the window and saw sandwiches, cake slices, puddings, Jell-O, sal­ads, etc. Self service — customers dropped the correct change in a coin slot next to the chosen window to unlock it. (In those days most items were under a dollar!) Seating there was unique too, as you sat at any empty spot rather than waiting for your own table. This often meant being at the same table with others already seated, like you did in a school cafeteria. Prices were reasonable, the food was good, and we often chatted with the most interesting people during our meal, discussing our day in the city.

Pudding!

The highlight of eating at the automat was having a dish of their fabulously deli­cious tapioca pudding. If you’ve eaten at Horn & Hardart you know what I am talking about, especially if you are a tapioca enthusiast! This pudding was thick, rich, and creamy and contained large “pearls” of tapioca. (Tapioca is a starch derived from the cassava root, native to South America.) I just now learned it is also gluten free, which we never knew back in the day. I have nev­er found another tapioca pud­ding able to hold a can­dle to this heavenly dessert at H&H. Even making it myself at home from packaged “tapioca pearls” does not come close. Can it be my memory of this pudding is tied to its taste, or is it something more? Perhaps it is the fond memories of going to the city with my be­loved grandmother. Whatever the answer, the memories remain over half a century later!

 

September 6, 2017 |

Retro Party Invite a Welcome Change

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

 

This summer we were invited to a friend’s house for a barbeque and get-together with longtime school buddies. Our host had a novel idea for entertaining and served many of the foods we loved back in our childhood days. Along with the regular barbeque items of hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled chicken, she had other foods that took us back to happy days — reference intended — of our youth. What would a “retro party” be without our comfort food, mac and cheese? Before our meal started we gathered around two fondue pots and did our dipping with crusty Italian bread into the delicious bubbly melted cheese. Later, at the end of the meal, the second fondue pot contained melted chocolate, surrounded by large platters of fresh fruit. Plates were stacked high with huge strawberries, banana slices and fresh pineapple for dipping. Other desserts included a Jell-O mold, a party staple back in the fifties, and several plates of Twinkies and Devil Dogs. I have to admit though, that while the packaged treats that were anxiously looked forward to in my lunch bag when I was in grade school just didn’t taste the same now. Have my taste buds “matured” or has the formula changed? I’m not sure.

Dinners Back Then

There is an email that has circulated for years that I find most humorous and nostalgic at the same time. It is all about what dinners were like back in the fifties and it struck a familiar chord with me. Some of the thoughts that cause one to smile in recognition are these simple statements. Enjoy this trip back in time as you ponder some of them!

  • Seaweed was not a recognized food.
  • None of us had ever heard of yogurt before.
  • Sugar enjoyed a good press in those days and was regarded as being white gold.
  • The word pasta was not used. It was macaroni or spaghetti.
  • Kebab was not even a word, never mind a food we’ve heard of.
  • All potato chips were plain, not flavored.
  • Prunes were considered “medicinal.”
  • Pineapple came in chunks or rings in a can. (Mom used rings to top a canned ham, dotted with     fresh cloves).
  • Water came out of the tap. If someone had suggested bottling it and charging more than gasoline for it they would have become a laughing stock.
  • And lastly… The one thing that we never ever had on/at our table in the fifties…was elbows, hats and cell phones. Those were truly “the good old days!”
August 30, 2017 |

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mochbeichel

 

 

The last days of summer are dwindling, so it’s time to assess what we managed to fit into it. There are so many places to go and things to do, yet so little time. One of the things I had on my list was to do something I did when I was a child living in the Bronx, and that was going to a ballgame. It’s been over fifty years since I have been to Yankee Stadium. Of course it was the old stadium I saw back then, not its newer replacement. The recent stadium visit as well as all the activities I experienced were nothing like I remembered or even imagined. Even the food choices were expanded with offerings of sushi and healthy veggie options to pick from along with ballpark food. Naturally, it’s impossible to go to a game and not have a hotdog! The first thing I noticed was all the families at the event. What a heartwarming sight to see parents with their children, especially when entire families were decked out in Yankee hats and shirts sporting their favorite player’s name.

Daytrips like going to a Yankee game are fun plans for a “staycation,” the term used where people avoid travel and stay home on their vacation. It is less expensive and less of a hassle to take day trips. A visit to a ballgame, zoo, botanical garden or any other local tourist attraction is perfect for a summer outing.

Stadium Tours

More than just going to watch a game, Yankee Stadium has a list of tours guests can choose from if they arrive prior to a game. There is the Classic Tour, PreGame Tour and Hands on History Tour. Each tour is led by a knowledgeable and experienced tour guide and guests can get up close to historic baseball artifacts. Tour fans who want early access to the stadium with a valid game ticket get private access to legendary Monument Park before it opens to the public, and concludes with exclusive access to batting practice in section 105.

What a thrill for the little baseball fans getting to “play at Yankee Stadium!” Friends of ours take their young son with a group of his classmates to Yankee Stadium for his birthday every year. His bedroom is decorated and adorned with a Yankee mural, pictures and baseball artifacts, so this is the perfect day for him.

For info visit: www.NewYorkYankees.mlb.com

 

August 23, 2017 |

Celebrating Grandparents All Year Long

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

 

Mark September 10th as National Grandparents Day, created to honor our grandparents for all the fond memories or wonderful things they have done for us over the years. It was back in 1978 that President Jimmy Carter made this proclamation as a national secular holiday to honor this wonderful generation—our grandparents. The proclamation declared “The elders of each family have the responsibility for setting the moral tone for the family and for passing on the traditional values of our nation to their children and grandchildren. They bore the hardships and made the sacrifices that produced much of the progress and comfort we enjoy today. In fact, Grandparents Day is also officially recognized in a number of countries on various days of the year, either as a single holiday or sometimes as a separate Grandmothers Day and Grandfathers Day.

Many of us had scores of delightful years spent in the company of either one or both grandparents, bringing warm feelings back to our hearts. I was fortunate to have both grandmothers in my life until I was in my late teens and visits to their homes were always enjoyable. One grandmother had a country home and I often spent an entire week at her house, without my parents. She made the most delicious scrambled eggs, using a glass frying pan that I only saw in her kitchen. In the evenings we’d listen to her favorite programs on her wooden Philco radio while she did her “mending” and I colored. The Jack Benny Program, December Bride, Inner Sanctum Mysteries, and a host of other popular series were tuned in regularly. My grandmother taught me how to embroider, starting out with simple cross stitches on a piece of remnant material until I was old enough to master more complicated designs.

My children had similar wonderful experiences with their grandparents. Fortunate to have both sets of grandparents with us for a long time, they enjoyed cooking or baking lessons from both grandmothers and sleepovers year-round. It was either at the country home of one set of grandparents or the beach house of the others. These years are captured both in memory and a collection of photographs and home movies.

If you are blessed to still have a grandparent, visit if you have not been there in a while. Often our lives get so busy we rarely have time to call. Pick up the phone, write a note and let your grandparents know you love them and think they are special!

 

 

 

 

August 16, 2017 |

Summer Reading — Revisiting Literary Classics

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Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

 

There is nothing more relaxing than sitting in the shade on a lawn or beach sipping a glass of lemonade and reading a good book. Summer is when I get a chance to catch up on books that have been on my “to read” list for years or others recommended by friends. There are books I read in my teenage years that I want to revisit. Very often I find that now as a senior adult, I “get” the book on a whole new level—The Picture of Dorian Grey being a perfect example of what my teenage self thought back in high school English class. The deeper meaning is more significant now, decades later.

There are novels that are on best-seller lists or that are talked about and made into films. Friends of mine have recommended Outlander or Game of Thrones book series, since both have become my viewing favorites for several seasons. And so my book list grows longer. For other readers that enjoy summer reading, here are a few literary classics that you may want to add to your list if you haven’t read them already: Gone with the Wind, the 1939 Margaret Mitchell fabulous story of the old south; Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, a love story taking place on the English moors; Black Beauty, the film about a horse, which propelled Elizabeth Taylor’s career. (The book was published just a few months before author Anna Sewell passed away. It was her only novel and was beloved by young adults both at that time and today). Also good reads are The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

In many respects, writing styles as well as the descriptions of what the characters are doing in each storyline have changed as well. Years ago I cut out a newspaper list of “Best Selling Books Over the Years” and started reading them, in no particular order. This is when I noticed a huge difference in writing styles and how certain events were portrayed. In more modern novels, the writing— be it love scenes or the taking of a life as in a murder mystery—tend to be more graphically described. Yet back in the 1930s and 40s the novels were descriptive, without unnecessary gory details. Google “List of Best Selling Books from 1924 to 2017” and discover some reading treasures!

August 9, 2017 |
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