News + Views

Fairy Tales and Land of Make Believe

Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat







By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel



This was a busy month for us with a weeklong visit by our two little grandchildren, ages 5 and 7. It was the first time they stayed with grandma and grandpa without their parents along. I wondered how they would do and if they’d become homesick after a day or so. They live five hours away, so taking them back home would be a long round trip drive. Besides, we were looking forward to their visit and I had a list of daily activities lined up for them to enjoy. By the way, this will be a topic of future columns about the wonderful activities here around Westchester for families to enjoy.

At the end of each busy day of exploring, then swimming at a friend’s pool, we’d have bedtime stories. I’d let them select the books they wanted me to read. Since I am a “saver” I still have two shelves lined with books from our three children’s childhood days and used these for our story time. Returning back to these days of fairy tales and make believe, I realized that words and places we know in literature are now magical and new to early learners being introduced to them. Take a journey back in time and see what you remember about the pretend places of famous books.



  1. In Greek myth, what is the name of the island beneath the Atlantic Ocean?
  2. Frank L. Baum’s book was about a young girl’s journey to what land?
  3. What is the name of the place where King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot lived?
  4. James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon was about a fictional place in Tibet called what?

(It was also a 1937 movie directed by Frank Capra starring Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt)

  1. The name of this place, a word derived by Sir Thomas Moore, is now used to describe a perfect destination, unequaled.



  1. Atlantis – The Greek name means “daughter of Atlas.” Its location is depicted as west of Gibraltar.
  2. Oz – Dorothy and her quest to return home to Kansas!
  3. Camelot – A story based upon a 12th-century romance by French writer Chretien de Troyes and is a stage musical and film favorite to this day.
  4. Shangri-La – The word “La” means mountain pass in Tibetan, and Shangri-La was inspired by National Geographic articles describing the isolated Tibetan mountain villages.
  5. Utopia






June 28, 2017 |

Grilling Safety Tips

Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat








By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel



Fourth of July signals the start of outdoor grilling season. Has your grill been left out during the severe winter months? Keeping your grill in a protective area can increase the life of your equipment.

Here is a story about what happened to a friend when she used her grill for the first time this summer. The grill was turned on and lit, and everything seemed fine. After five minutes she went into the house to get the meat she was planning to cook. When she returned outside she found the grill had burst into flames! It was too engulfed in flames to touch the dial to turn off the gas and a dangerous situation was at hand. My own thought is that the unit might very well have exploded if it became too hot with the flames covering the whole grill. The friend took a stick she found in the yard and pushed the dial to “off” without getting too close to the grill. Then she ran into the house to retrieve the fire extinguisher. Within minutes, the fire was out. When everything cooled down, she was able to closely inspect the grill to see what caused the fire. The whole bottom frame of the gas grill was rusted out. The pipes that contained the gas flow were also badly rusted. Apparently the top of the grill and side wooden slats were cleaned, but no further inspection was given to the equipment.

The moral of the story here is to inspect every piece of equipment stored over the winter before using it in the summer. This should apply to camping grills, oil or kerosene lamps and any other summer vacation or sport equipment that is powered by electric or fuel. Frequently the dials, controls or metal parts of these units can rust, break or need replacement because of age. Check all controls and replace if you suspect damage or excessive wear.

Cleaning Up

Recently we saw a TV safety segment that showed the effects of what happens when a steel wool brush is used to clean food particles off the grill. Some of the steel wool stuck to the grill and ended up in the hamburgers that were cooked later on. The suggestion was to buy a barbeque brush with brass bristles that do not come off when using. Visit any store that sells barbeque accessories to select the safest brush. Happy grilling!




June 21, 2017 |

Wedding Invitation Reminders and Suggestions

Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat







By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel



The wedding date is set and now it’s time to send out invitations. Many brides still prefer printed stationery over “e-vites.” Budgets may dictate the style, size and design of the invitation. Remember — the larger and heavier the mailing, the higher the postage cost, including the cost of the stamp on the RSVP card.

If you are unsure of what to select for special circumstances, your printer should have some ideas on the wording for your invitation. Mention any notations if it is the parents or the couple hosting the event, if all parents are alive, and what the names are for each if a parent has remarried.

Do you need to mention anything special on the invitation about “adult reception” (polite term for no children) or “black tie optional”? And last, but not least, make sure you mail out invitations to people in the same family or office co-workers at the same time. Believe it or not, guests might feel they were invited after others declined if their invite arrived a week or more later. We’ve known people that did “compare when the invite was received.”


It is a good idea to make the RSVP date at least two weeks before you actually have to let the caterer know the head count. Some guests may not respond in time requiring you to make follow-up telephone calls. If you have given the catering hall an estimate of how many guests will attend, you are required to pay for that many dinners, whether the guests attend or not. Some couples underestimate the total by about six dinners, as it is easier for the caterer to add last minute guest totals. A caterer will charge for the promised number, even if they are no-show. Paying for guests who cancel at the last minute is a costly expense.

To reiterate, the bottom line in this whole process is to make sure you are organized. Whether you do an Excel spread sheet or are writing your guest list on loose leaf paper, you have to make sure you can keep track of names and addresses, the date invitations were mailed and who is replying with yes or regrets. When all this is in order you can start your next task, and that is seating arrangements. But then that is another column in itself!




June 14, 2017 |

Bucket List of ‘Things I NEVER Want to Do’

Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat







By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel



The expression about having a “bucket list” became more popular after a 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman was released. The premise of this “adventure, comedy, drama” movie was that two senior citizen men headed out on a trip that covered things they wanted to do before they passed away. While some of these activities seemed on film to be quite exciting, many of them were things I would have no interest in adding to my list of things to do. In fact, I began thinking of some of the things people do for “excitement” or their personal interest that have no attraction for me. Not that I am a “nervous Nelly” or “scaredy cat” as our childhood taunts would suggest, but I see no reason to take life so casually for a short-time thrill. With cell phone photo capabilities and the urge for taking “selfies” to post on social media to friends and strangers, I think that daredevil postings are becoming more dangerous. For me, the five minutes of fame with such a posting has no interest for this timid self to be part of any such photos.

Following is my personal “Bucket List of Things I NEVER Want to Do” (in no particular order) now or in the future of my lifetime. Others might find these thrill-seeking events a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I surely have promised myself to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground in very safe havens.

  1. Sky diving
  2. Mountain climbing
  3. Swimming with the sharks in a cage
  4. Spelunking (exploring caves)
  5. Riding a dog sled team in the Iditarod
  6. Driving a race car 120 miles per hour (or more)
  7. Working in a circus as a lion tamer
  8. Tight rope walking over the Grand Canyon or any other place to thrill an audience
  9. Blasting off into space and living in a space station for an extended time. (Although it might     look like fun floating around the interior of the rocket ship)
  10. Be a traveling gourmet chef that has to eat exotic, strange foods like insects or animal body parts that are not what we are used to in our Western culture

That’s my list! What’s yours?

June 7, 2017 |

Avoiding Excess Salty Food for Children

Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat







By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel



Children soon will be home for the summer, and that often means more time for snacking. When we think about salt consumption, most worry about an adult’s diet and give less thought to what our children are eating. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered that more than 90 percent of American children consume too much sodium. According to the study, foods such as chicken nuggets, pizza and pasta account for almost half of their sodium intake. The researchers interviewed and examined more than 2,000 children ages six through eighteen for this ongoing study.

Some of the foods that are frequently marketed to kids at restaurants and grocery stores include pizza, breads, cheese, soups, pasta, cold cuts, savory snacks, and Mexican mixed dishes. Fast food restaurants and some school cafeterias also serve foods that are high in sodium. At home, dinner appears to be the saltiest meal of the day, with 39 percent of sodium consumed at dinner compared with 29 percent at lunch, 16 percent during snack time and 15 percent at breakfast.

One in six kids has elevated blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. In our hectic life, we often look for easy-to-prepare foods or stop at fast food chains occasionally when time is short in-between school and sports events. Unfortunately, there are health consequences if too much high-sodium food is consumed.


How can parents reduce sodium intake for their children? We can model healthy eating by offering kids plenty of fruits and vegetables without added salt. Read product labels, choosing foods with the lowest sodium levels. Restaurants can replace sodium with alternatives like spices, herbs, and citrus juices. If you request low sodium meals, most establishments will fulfill your request. Avoid sauces such as soy, teriyaki, ketchup, barbeque, and salad dressings, which can be high in sodium. A small squeeze instead of a large amount can make a huge difference!

The American Heart Association (AHA) is working to help kids and families live heart-healthy lives.

For information on how to keep your family healthy and active, visit:

The AHA is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke, America’s leading killers. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit: or call any of their offices around the country.



May 31, 2017 |

Memorial Day — How Much Do You Know About It?

Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat







By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel



Throughout the year Americans celebrate a variety of holidays, some religious, some federal and others that are considered more for their merriment content. Then there are holidays that take on a serious side such as Memorial Day. Some people might think of this day as merely the start of the summer season, with a three-day weekend coming. Families with children should try to introduce them to the meaning behind this and other American holidays that some may take for granted. It’s more than a day where stores offer sales. There are certain traditions associated with Memorial Day and one of them revolves around the proper way of raising the American flag on that day. The flag should be “raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon, then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.”

Memorial Day Quiz


  1. Recognition of Memorial Day began after which war?
  2. What was its original name before it was changed to Memorial Day?
  3. What is the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day?
  4. What flower is the symbol of Memorial Day that some people wear to commemorate the day?
  5. What is the name of the poem written by Colonel John McCrae about this flower?


  1. The Civil War
  2. Decoration Day — because the graves of deceased soldiers were decorated with flowers and American flags.
  3. Memorial Day is in remembrance of those who died serving their country. Veterans Day celebrates the service of every U.S. military veteran.
  4. The poppy
  5. In Flanders Fields

The poem is deeply moving and so very sad, but a wonderful tribute to all those that gave their lives serving their country.

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

May 24, 2017 |

Moving or Relocating — House to House

Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat







By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel



This time of year usually signals when people start looking to buy a new home since it works well with their children’s school calendar as well as better weather. We have several recently retired friends who are downsizing and moving to a smaller home or to warmer climate states. No matter the situation, these moving tips can easily apply to each family. The suggestions are passed along from conversations with friends that are in the midst of this complicated, exhausting and often emotional change in their lives — moving.


It is difficult to part with decades of artifact memories, which is understandable. However, the new home is often smaller with little-to-no room for excess items collected over the years. If stored in the attic or basement, untouched for years, they are probably not needed. Often the couple moving, especially the newly retired, will think they have more time to sort through the items after the move. Why pay the moving company extra money to transport items that will be discarded later or given away? Once the decision to move has been made, start cleaning out unwanted items before finding your new home. There are many charities and civic organizations looking for gently used items as donations for needy families or to sell at their tag sale fundraisers.

Food items are another area that needs special attention when it comes to transporting perishables. Obviously, items from the freezer or refrigerator should be packed in coolers with ice to prevent spoilage. One friend suggested using and eating as many items as possible from the freezer beforehand so there is less to transport. The same can apply to canned goods that may add the weight and volume of several cartons or more, thereby increasing moving costs. Be creative and look for ways to use up any canned, bottled or packaged food items months before the move.


Make it easy for movers to carry your items to the appropriate rooms. Buy colored circle stickers to mark the cartons — red for kitchen, blue for living room, green for playroom, yellow for master bedroom, etc. Give the moving company the code sheet with the name of each room with the corresponding colored circle next to it. This makes it easier for them to put the box in the right room without a family member having to be nearby to constantly direct.

Happy Moving!


May 17, 2017 |
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