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Enjoy An Eco-Friendly Autumn

Autumn arrives with cool breezes, awe-inspiring foliage and the hint of holidays on the horizon. Fall is a favorite time of year for many people because the crisp weather motivates people of all ages to enjoy the great outdoors.

Individuals conscious of their carbon footprints can use fall as a time to take inventory of their behaviors and make changes where necessary. The following are some steps to take right now that fit perfectly with the harvest season.

· Shop at a local farm stand. Take advantage of the many roadside stands that crop up this time of year where you can find bushels of apples, pumpkins, gourds, and late-summer vegetables. After a day of sightseeing, visit a farm stand for warm cider and freshly baked doughnuts. Buying local produce reduces reliance on foreign-shipped foods and other products, while also cutting back on the fuel consumed to get foods from the farm to the table.

· Use nature to decorate. Skip plastic, mass-produced decorations and rely on nature to dress up your home. Fill vases with leaves and berries. Place small pumpkins on mantles, and enrich the landscape of your home with vibrantly hued mums and other cool-weather plants. Corn husks and stalks can add harvest flair to front porches. Twigs nestled and tied together can make interesting table centerpieces.

· Create a composting pile. Outdoor chores are easier in cool weather than they are when the mercury rises. Set aside a place in the yard for composting. A healthy compost pile should have roughly two-thirds carbon (brown) materials and one-third nitrogen (green) materials, says EarthEasy.com. Use those lawn clippings and raked leaves to make compost for spring plantings.

· Visit a corn maze. After corn has been harvested, farm owners often use their land for supplemental income. Corn mazes can be simple or complex depending on visitors’ ages. Engage in family bonding outside and turn off electronics in the process.

· Bake your own pie. After a fun-filled day picking apples at a nearby orchard, head home and use those locally sourced apples to whip up a delicious pie.

· Recycle old clothes to dress your scarecrow. Clothing that is not worthy of donation can be transformed into a festive scarecrow just in time for Halloween hijinks. Fill out the body of the scarecrow with newspaper and then add some pieces of straw around the neck, hands and feet.

· Host a football party. Watch the game on television or have a pickup game in the yard. Serve finger foods to cut down on the need for plastic or paper plates and flatware. Purchase a keg of beer from a local brewery to eliminate individual beer cans and bottles. Set out a nonalcoholic punch bowl so the kids can enjoy refreshments, too.

Autumn can be a great time of year to embrace some eco-friendly practices.

How Being An Early Bird Can Benefit Holiday Shoppers

Come the end of the often hectic holiday shopping season, many people resolve to begin shopping earlier in the following year. While such resolutions can be hard to keep, shoppers would be wise to consider the myriad ways they can benefit by starting their holiday shopping earlier than they’re typically accustomed to doing.

Deals

The more time shoppers give themselves to find gifts for their loved ones, the more time they have to comparison shop and find the best deals. Retailers often offer steep discounts during the holiday season, but such deals may pale in comparison to those that can be had throughout the rest of the year. Holiday shoppers who begin shopping early can always skip buying in late summer or autumn if they think better deals can be had once the holiday season begins.

Shipping

By shopping early, shoppers can choose the least expensive shipping option offered by online retailers, potentially saving substantial amounts of money as a result. In addition, shoppers who start early won’t have to worry about items failing to arrive on time, a common source of stress for last-minute holiday shoppers.

Credit score

Another advantage to shopping early for holiday gifts is it allows consumers to protect their credit scores by spreading their spending out over several months instead of doing so in the handful of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In a survey examining debt associated with the holiday season, MagnifyMoney found that the average holiday debt in 2016 was slightly more than $1,000. Credit card debt can negatively affect consumers’ credit scores, especially if balances are not paid in full when bills are due. Shoppers can avoid such situations entirely by shopping early using only disposable income to make purchases instead of credit cards. Such financial flexibility may not be possible for shoppers who wait until the holiday season has begun to start shopping.

Time

Shoppers can save more than money by starting their holiday shopping in advance of the holiday season. In spite of the popularity of online shopping, many people still visit traditional brick and mortar retailers to do their present buying. Such stores can be overwhelmed with shoppers between Thanksgiving and Christmas, leading to long lines and lengthy searches for parking. Shoppers are far less likely to encounter big crowds and crowded parking lots if they get their shopping done before the dawn of the holiday season, saving themselves substantial amounts of time as a result.

Shoppers who commit to getting their holiday shopping done early can save money and time and protect their financial reputations as well.

Wenger & Myers Insurance My Franklin Shopper App

Satisfy With A Simple, Spicy Appetizer

Hosting often involves serving food, and the following recipe for “Spicy Cheese Balls” from A.J. Rathbun’s “Party Snacks!” (Harvard Common Press) is sure to please hosts who want to serve their guests an hors d’oeuvre that’s simple but spicy.

Spicy Cheese Balls (Makes 35 to 40 bite-size balls)

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

1. Put the cream cheese, cheddar, garlic, parsley, cayenne, black pepper, and salt in a food processor. Process for 5 to 10 seconds, until well blended. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Spread the chopped walnuts on a plate. Shape the cheese mixture into 35 to 40 small cheese balls, each about the size of a large marble. Roll each cheese ball in the walnuts, coating the outside (you may to press a little to ensure sticking).

3. Serve the cheese balls on a large platter. You can put a toothpick in each ball, but you could also surround them with crackers and let guests use their hands. It all depends on what kind of party you’re having.

Set and Stick to Your Holiday Budget

The chance to give gifts and spend time with loved ones makes the holiday season a special time of year. But for many people, the holiday season often leads to overspending.

A 2016 survey from the American Research Group found that American shoppers anticipated spending an average of $930 on gifts that holiday season. Data from T. Rowe Price confirms that parents are spending between $400 and $500 per child each year. In 2015, CPA Canada conducted a random phone survey of 1,004 adult Canadians and found the average adult planned to spend $766 on holiday gifts.

Although these numbers can reflect an overwhelming sense of generosity, many times excessive spending is based on a desire to outdo gifting from the year prior – sometimes at the risk of personal finances. Some people are taking drastic measures to make holidays over-the-top, with some delving into emergency savings while others withdraw prematurely from retirement accounts. Budgeting for the holiday season can help shoppers keep their finances in check.

Determine spending patterns

An examination of receipts and spending habits from previous holiday seasons can help individuals establish budgets for the current year. Make a list of all expenses – even the ones that extend beyond holiday giving. These may include expenses such as gym service fees, homeowner’s insurance, traveling expenses, gift exchanges at work, and more. Extra costs can add up and should be factored into holiday budgets.

Try to recall if your spending last year felt comfortable or if you were paying off credit cards long after the holiday season had ended. If it’s the latter, resolve to make adjustments.

Establish a budget that fits

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all budget. Figure out if there is extra money this season or if times are tight. This will help you plan accordingly and avoid overspending. Shifting priorities can help free up some cash. If children are interested in this year’s hot (and likely expensive) gift, cut back on holiday travel or entertaining. Instead of buying gifts for coworkers, buy a drink during a night out.

Use the holidays as an opportunity to sell

Collectibles, gently used toys, video games, action figures – all of these items may be collecting dust at your home, but they might be coveted by other shoppers. Rely on the season for spending to make some extra income that can be cashed in for your own holiday purchases.

Set up an account and track spending

Establish a separate account strictly for holiday spending. This can include a credit card only used for gifts and entertaining or a savings account at a bank or credit union. You won’t know what is going out of your account unless you keep careful tabs on it. Tracking spending is the biggest key to sticking with a budget, according to the financial advice group The Balance.

Holiday budgeting can be challenging. But with some effort, it is possible to avoid debt and still enjoy a happy holiday season.

Make a Household Favorite More Healthy

Many beloved dishes might be enjoyed more often if they were only a little healthier. Author and former personal chef Michelle Dudash was once asked by a client if the she could make a healthier version of chicken parmesan. The result of that request is the following recipe for “Skinny Chicken Parmesan with Spinach,” which Dudash ultimately included in her book, “Clean Eating For Busy Families” (Fair Winds). The recipe was a hit with Dudash’s client and will surely be a hit at home cooks’ dinner tables as well.

Skinny Chicken Parmesan with Spinach (Makes 6 servings)

For the sauce:

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pinches salt
2 pinches freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon honey

For the chicken:

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
11/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into 6 pieces, pounded to 1/4 inch
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cups baby spinach
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 6 medallions (or shredded)
6 cups cooked whole-grain thin spaghetti tossed in 2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F and coat the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan with olive oil spray.

To make the sauce: Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and garlic and cook gently for 30 seconds. Do not brown. With your hand, squeeze each tomato into the pan and add basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and honey. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes, lowering the heat as needed.

To make the chicken: Combine parmesan cheese, flour, salt, pepper, and basil in a medium dish and coach chicken with cheese mixture. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. When oil is shimmering, add chicken, rounded-side down, and cook until golden on one side, about 5 minutes. Arrange chicken in a baking pan. Pour remaining 2 teaspoons of oil into skillet and add spinach. Cook spinach for 1 to 2 minutes until wilted and swirl in lemon juice. Gently press spinach to release water and divide spinach on top of chicken. Spoon sauce around and over the chicken, place mozzarella on top, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake for 15 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve over spaghetti.

6 Great Gifts for Home Cooks

Many people enjoy preparing homecooked meals for their loved ones. Whether it’s a large family gathering during the holiday season or a weeknight meal for their immediate families, men, women and even children who like to cook enjoy the satisfied looks on their loved ones’ faces after sharing a delicious meal.

Come the holiday season, gift givers can put the same satisfied look on the faces of the home cooks in their lives by offering a variety of gifts that can make mealtime easier and/or more enjoyable.

1. Electric corkscrew: Nothing complements a good meal quite like an appropriately paired bottle of wine. Cooks who are too busy in the kitchen to utilize traditional corkscrews, which can be time-consuming and messy, might enjoy an electric corkscrew. Such corkscrews quickly remove corks from wine bottles, requiring little effort on the part of already busy cooks.

2. Cookbook: People who understand the joy of cooking often love to experiment in the kitchen. Cookbooks can be an ideal gift for such cooks. Choose a book that provides recipes from their favorite styles of cuisine, such as Italian or Indian food. Or find a book that offers an array of recipes that allows them to explore various types of cuisine.

3. Cookware: Even the best cookware can only take so much usage, and chances are home cooks’ pantries can afford an upgrade or two. Gift givers should keep in mind that many home cooks have strong preferences regarding their cookware, so it might be wise to give a gift card or ask a loved one which type of cookware he or she prefers. Of course, a covert inspection of a loved one’s pantry might provide the insight gift givers need as well.

4. Rolling pin: For the person who loves to bake, a rolling pin might make a better gift than noncooks may appreciate. Rolling pins are necessary to prepare many baked goods, and a customizable rolling pin can flatten dough to the exact millimeter, helping bake-happy home cooks prepare the perfect plate of cookies.

5. Cooking class: Cooking classes can make the ideal gift for novice home cooks who are just beginning to explore their love of cooking. But advanced classes can help more seasoned cooks perfect their craft as they learn to prepare more complex dishes.

6. Wine aerator: Much like electric corkscrews can make opening bottles of wine much easier, wine aerators can help aerate red wine more quickly than decanters, which can take up to two hours to fully aerate wine. Aerators oxidate red wine, softening its flavors and bringing out the aromas that can make a great bottle of wine that much more enjoyable.

Home cooks often enjoy preparing fresh meals for their loved ones. The holiday season presents a perfect opportunity to find gifts that make cooking that much more enjoyable for loved ones who can’t wait to whip up the next homecooked meal for family and friends.

Homemade Hummus With Truly Unique Taste

Hummus provides a delicious and healthy alternative to less nutritional dips. Versatile and available in various flavors, hummus can be whipped up at home for those who prefer to make their own dips. The following recipe for “Garbanzo-Carrot Hummus with Grilled Yogurt Flatbread” from James Campbell Caruso’s “España: Explore the Flavors of Spain” (Gibbs Smith) includes some Moroccan flavors that give this easy-to-prepare recipe a truly unique taste.

Garbanzo-Carrot Hummus with Grilled Yogurt Flatbread (Makes 2 cups)

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
Salt
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans, drained
4 teaspoons chopped cilantro plus 1 teaspoon for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
21/2 teaspoons ground cumin
11/2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chile flakes
2 teaspoons Moroccan Spice Blend (see below)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 batch Yogurt Flatbread (see below)

In a medium saucepan, combine the carrots with 2 quarts water and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the carrots to drain and cool in a colander.

Combine carrots and remaining ingredients, except for Yogurt Flatbread, in the work bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve with fresh, hot Yogurt Flatbread cut in wedges.

Moroccan Spice Blend (Makes about 2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

In a small resealable glass or plastic container, combine all of the ingredients.

Yogurt Flatbread (Serves 4)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
21/2 cups plain yogurt
Olive oil

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the yogurt and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Cover the work bowl and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium. Scrape the dough from the work bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a long log and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and use a rolling pin or tortilla press to flatten it into a 1/4-inch-thick tortilla shape. Brush each “tortilla” lightly with olive oil. Grill each for about 40 seconds then turn and cook another 40 seconds.

How to Help Identify and Stop Cyberbullying

Today’s students have many new things to contend with as they navigate the school year. As a greater number of schools transition to providing lessons, homework and tests on digital devices, students spend much more time online. This connectivity can have many positive results. However, the same availability also opens up students of all ages to various dangers.

One of these dangers is a more invasive form of bullying called “cyberbullying.” The global organization DoSomething.org says nearly half of kids have been bullied online, with one in four saying it has happened more than once.

Cyberbullying has grown as access to computers and devices that offer an online connection has grown. Bullying is now just as likely to occur online as it is on the playground. Cyberbullies may bully classmates through email, social media, instant messaging, and other social applications. Since cyberbullying tends to target emotions and mental well-being, and reaches beyond the school campus into a student’s home, its impact can be even more serious.

According to the Megan Meier Foundation, which campaigns against bullying, peer victimization during adolescence is associated with higher rates of depression, suicide ideation and suicide attempts. In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, according to data compiled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Cyberbullying occurs in many different forms. Here are some types of cyberbullying educators and parents can look for if they suspect their students or children are being bullied.

  • Flaming: This is a type of bullying that occurs in an online forum or group conversation. It’s achieved by sending angry or insulting messages directly to the person. Flaming is similar to harassment, but harassment usually involves privately sent messages.
  • Outing: This type of bullying is a sharing of personal and private information about a person publicly. When information has been disseminated throughout the internet, one has been “outed.”
  • Fraping: Fraping occurs when someone logs into another’s social media account and impersonates him or her. This could be a child or an adult impersonating the person and posting inappropriate content in his or her name. Sometimes this type of bullying is also called “posing” or “catfishing.”
  • Masquerading: Masquerading occurs when bullies create fake profiles so they can harass someone anonymously. The bully is likely someone the person being targeted knows well.
  • Exclusion: Sometimes direct targeting is not necessary. Students can be bullied simply by being deliberately left out, such as not being invited to parties or encouraged to participate online conversations.

Securing privacy online is one way to prevent cyberbullying attacks. Students also can be selective about who they share personal information with or whose social media friendships they accept. Thinking before posting and paying attention to language and tone can help curb cyberbullying as well. Students should stick together and report instances of cyberbullying if it becomes an issue.

Homemade Pie Crust Made Easy + Turkey Vegetable Pot Pie Recipe

Pot pie makes for a delicious meal, especially when home cooks go the extra mile and prepare homemade pie crust. Some may be intimidated by the idea of making their own pie crusts, but the following recipe for “Turkey Vegetable Pot Pie with Whole-Wheat Crust” from Michelle Dudash’s “Clean Eating for Busy Families” (Fair Winds) simplifies that process, ensuring a fun and easy time cooking and, ultimately, a delicious meal.

Turkey Vegetable Pot Pie with Whole-Wheat Crust (Serves 6)

For the crust:

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup corn oil
1/3 cup orange juice

For the filling:

1 carton condensed cream of chicken soup (organic preferred)
1/2 cup low-fat milk
11/4 pound boneless, skinless turkey breast, thinly sliced into bite-size pieces
1 cup thinly sliced carrots (or frozen sliced carrots, thawed)
1 cup leeks, quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise, using white and pale green parts only
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons dried herbes de
Provence (or 1/2 teaspoon each thyme, rosemary and basil)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the crust: Combine flours and salt in a medium bowl. Pour in oil and orange juice and stir until moistened. Press dough to flatten and chill.
To make the filling: Blend soup and 1/2 cup of milk in a large bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Divide dough into 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger ball between 2 large sheets of waxed paper until it is 1/8-inch-thick or until it fits in the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper. Turn dough over and carefully place in the pie pan, removing remaining piece of waxed paper. Press out any bubbles and patch holes with scraps of dough. Pour filling into the prepared pan. Roll remaining dough and lay it on top. Cut any excess dough hanging from the edges and crimp the crust between your thumb and forefinger to seal. Cut a heart into the center to allow steam to escape.

Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until center of crust becomes golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the pie’s center reaches 165 F, covering browned edges only with foil about halfway through cooking. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting.

The Best Ways to Cheer on Favorite Sports Teams

Autumn weather calls to mind sipping warm cider and raking leaves. But for sports fans, fall is all about sports.

American football, field hockey, ice hockey, and basketball are just a few of the sports that make autumn an exciting time for sports fans.

Even the most ardent fan may have room for improvement when it comes to supporting his or her team. Here are a few ideas to make cheering for a favorite team even more enjoyable.

Attend a game

Fans who never get to see their team play in person may miss out on a unique experience. The atmosphere and energy of sitting in a stadium or arena cannot compete with a television simulcast. Ardent fans can resolve to attend a game in person this season. Enroll in employee entertainment clubs to receive discounts on sports tickets among other types of entertainment.

Host a game watch

Build camaraderie with fellow fans by hosting a game watch. A routine sports night is a great way to get together with friends and family members. Gather a group at your house each week to watch a favorite team battle it out on the big screen. Or get together with fellow fans in the community at a sports bar or restaurant, combining a night out on the town with your passion for sports.

Get the kids involved

Spread the love of fandom to a new generation. Schools and youth organizations can encourage children to support local scholastic teams. Organize field trips to sporting events to involve as many students as possible.

Fall sports are heating up, and fans can do their part to support their favorite teams in various ways.