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December 27, 2017 |

Archive for » December 27th, 2017«

What’s hot for 2018

What’s going to be hot in home décor in 2018?

We asked area home experts for their predictions. Here’s what they said:

Wallpaper. “Wallpaper is making a comeback,” says Michael Holben, operations associate store manager of the Home Depot in Whitehall. Maria Bouloux of Bouloux Interiors in Coopersburg also expects “wallpaper to be a trend in 2018.”

However, it’s not your grandmother’s wallpaper. It’s not covering whole walls, Holben and Bouloux say. People will be using it to break up spaces they didn’t normally decorate such as under stair risers and either below or above a chair rail, Holben says. “They will be using wallpaper more like artwork than wallpaper.”

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Healthy gifts for this festive season

Healthy gifts for this festive seasonHealthy gifts for this festive season

The festive season is now in full swing. It is all about celebrating our loved ones and showing them how special they are by giving them a gift that keeps on giving; good health. Here are some gift ideas that can inspire and motivate your friends and family to get healthy in 2018, writes Betty Muindi

1. Gym membership

Get a gym membership for a friend or family member who enjoys or always wants to start working out. A pair of good sport shoes, a fashionable workout outfit or a gym equipment are all great ideas for keeping your loved ones motivated to stay active throughout the year.

2. Massage

A great gift this holiday season is to give someone special the opportunity to release their stress. This is why receiving a massage is great to escape the holiday chaos and responsibilities. You can learn about the various massage options and give your spouse a good one at home or book a trip to the spa together for this relaxing experience.

3. Health monitoring gadgets

Available in most fitness shops, buy your loved one a stylish activity tracker, a smart scale, connected blood pressure monitors to help monitor their steps, sleep, activity level, and calories burned. The tracker can also monitor how many hours of sleep you get per night and roughly estimate the quality of sleep. You could also install them as android apps on your loved one’s phone.

4. Wellness or healthy cookbooks

Staying healthy is about more than just staying active. Books on wellness or a healthy cook book are excellent gift options this holiday. Providing your loved ones with a cookbook full of healthy alternatives to their favourite meals could be a big help in their journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

5. Healthy cookware

Gift your friend with cookware that do not pose health dangers. For example an enamel cast cookware, unlike pans that are coated with a layer of chemicals to prevent sticking, they do not release gases or chemical particles into the air or your food when it is heated.

Other healthy cookware options include stainless steel utensils, glass jars or containers because they are non-porous, which means that odours and flavours can’t be absorbed.

Cutting boards made from bamboo are also less likely to result in cross-contamination than plastic boards thanks to the naturally-occurring anti-microbial compounds in bamboo. Ceramic is also a great healthy kitchenware gift because it is kitchen- and earth-friendly material that can withstand extreme temperatures.

6. Beauty gift

We all have that friend or family member who can’t get enough of beauty products. How about getting them a healthy product with natural ingredients like raw sheer butter, coconut oil, aloe vera, among others. They can be best replacement to some beauty products, which have additives that could be harmful to health.

7. Smartshake shaker cups

Also available at health shops and large retail shops, smartshake shaker cup is made from BAP-free plastic, they don’t leak, and can be used to pack juice, smoothies, healthy concoctions. They come in loads of vibrant colours and would make the perfect holiday gift.

8. Healthy food gift

The holiday season centres on festivities that include decadent food and drink. However, a loved one will not mind a food gift that encourages them to stay healthy. Pick up a tin of green tea bags and a strainer for a gift that’s packed with antioxidant power.

Also, herbs and spices are packed with phytochemicals that lower inflammation and have natural antiviral and antibiotic properties. Another gift is a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, that can lower cholesterol levels, which helps reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. A basket of fruits is also a perfect healthy food gift.

9. Cooking classes

This gift is for the person in your life who dreams of becoming a better cook or who just loves spending time in the kitchen. Cooking classes can also offer healthy food cooking ideas and alternatives.

10. Your personal time

Volunteer to be someone’s workout buddy. Create a reward system to present to them every time they achieve a milestone. Also, just being there for your loved ones is also good compensation for the little time spent together throughout the year.

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Asian tableware: from Zen to zany

  • This undated photo shows a bowl from Miya Company. The surprise of this bowl is that it's not wood at all, but a realistically-patterned ceramic. (Miya via AP) Photo: AP / Miya



Japan, China and Korea have a long history of creating beautiful table goods, from rustic stoneware to delicate ceramics, sleek lacquered items to whimsical serveware and utensils. This tableware is appearing more and more in decor stores on this side of the world as part of several trends: minimalism, globalism, eclecticism.

Miya Company , based in New York City, imports a wide range of Japanese tableware and gifts. “We’re a third-generation family business that was started in the 1930s by my husband’s great uncle, Chosuke Miyahira,” says spokesperson Heidi Moon.

Miya was initially a flower shop, and then began offering tableware. Moon says its motto today is “friends don’t let friends use boring dishes,” and that whatever they sell has to be “beautiful, simple, and fun.”

In the utensils department, there are fanciful tongs shaped like cat paws, and a man-shaped chopsticks holder with hollow legs so the sticks make him look like a stilt walker. In the ceramics section, there are plates and cups resembling traditional kokeshi dolls. Blue and white ceramic bowls, ideal for cereal, rice or soup, are stamped with a simple raindrop pattern, and come in sets with wooden chopsticks. There are cleverly designed mugs, too. A calico cat-shaped cup has its own little kitten spoon.

From Jewel Japan, distributed by Miya, a microwave-safe series of mugs printed with modern graphics of cats, whales, or origami cranes come with handy matching lids to keep beverages warm.

Cats are well represented in Asian tableware as symbols of good luck. Along with all the feline mugs, there are playful pussycats gamboling over glass and porcelain plates, and a clever cat-shaped matte black teapot, with the cat’s head becoming a cup.

A striking black and white plate collection by Komon draws inspiration from traditional Japanese patterns like hemp leaves, snowflakes, arrow feathers and thatching.

Run by the Lin family since 1997, Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen in Pleasanton, California, sells table and kitchen goods as well as home accessories. A collection of serveware is designed in the style of 16th century Japanese Oribe ceramics, known for their bold designs and copper green glaze. A pattern called Sunlit Forest evokes sunlight streaming through a woodland canopy at midday.

There are jaunty lidded Chawa Muchi cups, traditionally used for egg custard. Painted with star flowers or clover, they’d make a pretty presentation for a sweet dessert.

Children’s chopstick sets include holders shaped like pandas, cats and bunnies.

Beautiful Wakasa chopsticks are made of hand-lacquered wood that’s then inlaid with shell or pearl in a design meant to evoke the clear, rippling waters of Japan’s Wakasa Bay.

Forget those boring buffet platters; consider a detailed, miniature lacquerware boat or bridge on which to perch the savories or sweets. Red and gold trim accents these glossy black pieces that would bring a touch of drama to the table.

CB2 has a matte-black, rustic, clay stoneware dish set comprised of a cup and saucer, bowl and two round plates with raised edges in the traditional Japanese style.

And School of the Art Institute of Chicago student Louis Kishfy designed a serene little tea mug that marries a gritty, tactile stoneware base with a silken glazed cloak in white, cobalt or sky blue.

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The best woks you can buy to cook up a delicious stir fry at home

The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

wok 4x3Lodge/Business Insider

The Insider Pick:

  • The best woks are nonstick, provide even and consistent heat distribution, are easy to clean, and are built to last a lifetime. This description fits the Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Wok to a T, plus, it’s oven-safe and made in the USA.

A stir fry is a healthy meal alternative that even the pickiest of vegetable eaters can warm up to. This simple and tasty dish is best made in a wok because of the cookware’s quick frying abilities and the fabulous flavors it produces.

But, stir-fries are not all that woks are good for. Used in China for millennia, the wok is ideal for a broad array of Chinese cuisine that requires high heat searing. Today’s woks are versatile enough to replace your standard frying pans as you cook fried potatoes, eggs, burgers, steamed vegetables, and even popcorn. And, if you are interested in using your wok for deep frying or smoking, there are woks that come with lids.

Woks are made from a wide range of materials and each has strengths and weaknesses. Carbon steel is traditionally a favorite material for woks because it reacts quickly to heat adjustments and has a natural nonstick finish. However, they can be quite expensive, and we could not find a model that was worth recommending.

Cast iron woks are much more affordable and also have a nonstick finish from their cooking oil seasoning. Cast iron is a heavy material, and it does not cool quickly. Some users may find the cleaning, drying, and oil seasoning process tedious.

Stainless steel woks have grown in popularity in recent years because of the buyer demand for nonstick (without a need for seasoning), dishwasher-safe alternatives. Stainless steel is also durable and not prone to rust. Aluminum is also used to make woks because of how lightweight and heat conductive it is. Many models use stainless steel with an aluminum core to take advantage of the positives of both of these materials.

We thoroughly researched the expert and consumer experiences with dozens of wok styles and models before picking the best woks. In order for a wok to be included in our guide, it needed a strong history of durability, even heat transfer, and ease of use and maintenance.

Although we chose the Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Wok as the best wok overall, there are several reasons why you might prefer the Cooks Standard 13-Inch Multi-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Wok, the T-fal Specialty Nonstick Jumbo Wok, the TeChef – Art Pan Wok, and the Calphalon Contemporary Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick Flat-Bottom Wok. Read on in the slides below to find out more.

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Disney’s Apartment-style Hotel Rooms Are Its Best-kept Secret …

If your ideal Disney vacation includes breakfast on your own terms and a living room to spread out in, that fairy tale can come true. Many of Disney World’s hotels are slyly housing the best rooms at the park, right under your nose. Whether you plan to watch fireworks from your room at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, kick back in a whirlpool-style bathtub at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, or spot giraffes and zebras wandering an outdoor savannah from your grand villa balcony, these multi-bedroom offerings have the power to upend your typical Walt Disney World vacation.

From souped-up studios to apartment-style lodging with in-room kitchens, laundry machines and multiple bathrooms, knowing this booking loophole is key for anyone who’s ever wanted a little more space while visiting the Most Magical Place On Earth.

Related: The Cheapest Month to Visit Disney World

If you’ve never noticed Disney’s multi-bedroom villas before, it’s likely because they’re booked the same way as standard rooms but often priced higher. Bypass the sticker shock: The occupancy is easily double or triple of a regular room and offers lodging more comfortable and luxurious than booking multiple adjoining rooms.

Even still, it’s hard to believe these large-scale rooms are hidden within some of Walt Disney World’s most popular hotels. Some are in entirely separate buildings, as with Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, while others, like at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort Spa, Disney’s Beach Club and Disney’s BoardWalk, are mixed within the property. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort Spa and Disney’s Old Key West Resort are exclusively villa-style rooms.

Walt Disney World primarily built multi-room options for Disney Vacation Club, the timeshare-like “membership” program ideal for families traveling on Disney trips annually — but regular guests often don’t realize a section of each property is for anyone to stay in, usually at prices comparable to regular rooms. With bookings available for studios, 1- and 2-bedroom villas and 3-bedroom grand villas, DVC’s multi-year agreement all but guarantees you’ll never, ever stay in a standard room again, but vacationing families can reap some of those benefits even if they’re not members.

Related: Matthew McConaughey Just Visited Disney World for the First Time Ever

Since Disney Vacation Club villas are intended for longer stays, they better suit the way you actually live on vacation. There are nooks for family dining, pull-out couches for useable living rooms, and small themed children’s beds that magically fold out of TV credenzas.

There are washing machines and dryers in the multi-bedroom units, convenient grocery delivery options, and even eat-in kitchens hosting full-sized refrigerators, ranges, dishwashers and all the necessary pots, pans and cookware for a proper meal outside the parks.

Disney Vacation Club Villas boardwalk

Villas are designed with the Disney VIP in mind, and often feature upscale design and high-end furnishings, especially in bathrooms, which host gorgeous tiled showers and upgraded enhancements like jacuzzi-style bathtubs.

Even studio rooms, which are similar in size to traditional hotel bookings, offer a king-sized bed — which can be tricky to come by in a standard room — and pull-out couch for more of an apartment-style experience ideal for small families.

Related: A Brand New Disney Theme Park Is in the Works

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge just converted an entire wing of the hotel into brand new apartment-style rooms. The Copper Creek Villas, which are conveniently located just steps from the lobby, boast trend-focused furnishings with a rustic touch and subtle Disney touches throughout. (All rooms feature artwork referencing the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, Walt Disney’s miniature backyard train at his Los Angeles home.)

Disney Vacation Club Villas Copper Creek

It’s the difference between living out of a hotel room and truly coming home at the end of the night — and if that includes a freezer full of Mickey-shaped delights, a couch to kick back on and a room of one’s own, all the better.

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Jell-O Molds, Jell-O Rings, Jiggling All the Way

“Vegetables, grapes and almonds buried in a vivid, sweet, translucent mass? Sure, why not? Don’t you want to throw in some marshmallows while you’re at it?”

This article appeared originally in our publishing partner, 100 Days in Appalachia.

I’ll admit, for someone who cooks professionally, I don’t care much for following recipes. But for someone who seldom follows them, I sure have an affinity for collecting the old ones. Little discolored, badly-worn, musty-smelling notecards with hard-to-read cursive assemblages of ingredients, amounts and detailed instructions. Yeah, those — I’ll take ‘em.

There are times I feel like the ameteur baseball card collector I was in fourth grade, only these days Nolan Ryan’s All-Star Edition and Jose Canseco’s MVP cards have been replaced with Flossie Hannah’s Vinegar Pie and Mary Stout’s Bread and Butter Pickles. Now my growing collection celebrates heroes known for wielding rolling pins and cast iron skillets in home kitchens, not padded leather mitts and hickory Louisville Sluggers in grandiose stadiums.

Especially around the holidays, most recipes in my possession take me straight back to the kitchen of my grandma, Betty Williams. You could say it’s where my career as a chef began — with my tiny, Velcro-strapped shoes planted on the top level of the beige, three-tiered stool I climbed to reach the countertop. Whether I was helpful or not, I looked forward to scaling those steps and making the traditional holiday cookies. That was only part of the magic that unfolded in her small, yellow-floored kitchen each December. I don’t have the trading cards to prove it, but Christmas was her culinary World Series, and she was victorious every time.

Black and white photo of Betty and Russell Williams in front of the Christmas tree.
Betty and Russell Williams at Christmas in the early 1960s.

I may rarely follow recipes precisely, but I still cherish the way they give us more than a road map to consistency in our cooking. Their contents help us learn about the cooks who came before us, and the traditions they carried on. What inspired them? What spurred them to evolve? Recipes handed down over the years can inspire us to learn, to piece together the stories that solidify food’s importance as a mark of our region’s constantly-changing cultural legacy.

This week, we’re featuring Lora Smith’s “Electric Jell-O,” a look at a particular instance of Appalachian culinary evolution based on that unique ingredient whose significance tends to spike around the holidays. Smith’s story was first published in 2016 in Gravy, a quarterly publication of the Southern Foodways Alliance. How, exactly, was it that Jell-O went from relative obscurity to near ubiquity in mountain communities?

I asked a similar question when I first opened my grandma’s recipe box several years after she passed. There were plenty of usual suspects for a cook with rural West Virginia roots — sweet potato, blueberry and rhubarb pies; canned tomatoes, fried green tomatoes, stewed tomatoes with salt-rising bread; dumplings, casseroles and pickles galore. But there was also an entire class of dishes one might not at first expect,​an assortment of salads and relishes with a base ingredient popularized by catchy radio jingles long before television ads planted J-E-L-L-O in the   minds of my similarly-aged peers.

Handwritten Jell-O recipe cards.

The recipe collection of Betty Williams, Mike Costello’s grandmother, contained handwritten recipes for traditional mountain fare, as well as a plethora of Jell-O salads, which became popular in rural kitchens in the mid-20th century.

Typically comprised of chopped vegetables, nuts and marshmallows encased in orange, red or green wobbly goodness, my grandma’s Jell-O recipes included Orange Jello with Carrots and Celery, Cranapple Salad, Cherry Jello Salad and Apple Jello Salad. Then there was a recipe noted, in parentheses, as “(favorite)”— the lime Jell-O-based Polly’s Salad from her nextdoor neighbor, Juanita Davis.

It wasn’t the presence of Jell-O recipes alone that I found surprising. After all, I have memories of brightly-colored, ring-shaped dishes jiggling about as they followed platters of ham, mashed potatoes and green beans being passed around the holiday table. But their numbers, their frequency, the way in which Jell-O recipes dominated the salad category certainly made me add it to an endless list of topics I’d raise with my grandma, were she still around.

My interest was piqued again last summer, while I perused recipes collected at our farm in the 1930s and 40s by Carrie Blake, widow of Amy’s great-great grandfather, Bill. After Bill’s passing, Carrie tended the land and braved treacherous winters in a large, drafty farmhouse by herself for nearly four decades. During this time, she amassed an impressive lot of recipes, some shared by friends and neighbors, others cut and saved from the local newspaper, the Clarksburg (West Virginia) Exponent.

Included in the clippings pulled from the Exponent’s collection (“Favorite Recipes — Contributed by West Virginia Women,” later “Family Favorites — Contributed Recipes from Central West Virginia Homemakers”) were recipes for desserts, breads and meat dishes. But recipes in one particular class — Jell-O ​salads — outnumbered any other category.

Recipe newspaper clippings from the Clarksburg Exponent.

Long before Mike Costello and Amy Dawson moved to Lost Creek Farm, Carrie Blake was caretaking the land and collecting recipes in the kitchen. Many of the recipes in her collection were clipped from the Clarksburg Exponent, which invited home cooks from central West Virginia to submit their favorites recipes.

There was the Congealed Salad from Mrs. E. B. Merryman of Nutter Fort, Yum Yum Salad from Weston’s Mrs. Gladys Helmick, and a Pineapple Ring from Mrs. Nellie Hawker of Wyatt. Blanche O’Dell recommended serving slices of Lime Delight Salad over leaf lettuce, topped with grated cheese and sprinkled with paprika. Thomas Cummings described Queen Salad—a lime Jell-O based dish with cabbage, carrots, green peppers and olives—as “a perfect side dish for a spaghetti meal”. Mrs. Edna Wood said Ribbon Salad—a recipe that includes three different flavors of Jell-O—should be made with red, green and white colored flavors during “the yuletide season.”

As the recipes have taught us, Jell-O is one of those special ingredients that brings out the best of our imaginations. Vegetables, grapes and almonds buried in a vivid, sweet, translucent mass? Sure, why not? Don’t you want to throw in some marshmallows while you’re at it? Heck, go ahead and call it salad, then pair it with spaghetti.

Isn’t imagination what makes the holiday season so special anyway? I think it is, so here I am, imagining that somehow, somewhere, Betty Williams, Carrie Blake and the contributors to the Exponent are sharing recipes and passing platters around the holiday table. Or, maybe, just maybe, they’re rockin’ around the Christmas tree, providing a steady wiggle to Jell-O’s perpetual jiggle.

Mike Costello.

Mike Costello (@costellowv) is a contributing editor at 100 Days in Appalachia,  where this article first appeared. Mike and his partner Amy Dawson operate Lost Creek Farm in Harrison County, West Virginia. 100 Days in Appalachia is a Daily Yonder publishing partner.


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Mini Mall fire hurts city’s soul

We talk about preserving history.

We talk about incubating small businesses.

We talk about keeping Denton weird and offbeat and quirky.

The Downtown Mini Mall, destroyed from wall to wall in a four-alarm fire Tuesday morning, did all these things in its own unique way. It was a holdover of bygone Denton, in a secondhand manner of speaking.

The building on the Locust Street side of the Square long ago served as Beall’s department store, but for the better part of four decades, it’s been a marketplace of vendors selling vintage items, crafts, antiques and just plain stuff — one person’s cast-off stuff turned into someone else’s treasure.

Before the Square’s current incarnation — a vibrant hub of shops, eateries, coffeehouses and watering holes that keep the area hopping well into the night — downtown held a host of antique shops that are commonplace in a faded town center. (Coincidentally, Jupiter House, which received some damage in the blaze next door, was one of the first businesses that hinted at what the Square could be when it opened in 2003 as a round-the-clock espresso bar.)

The Mini Mall’s sister shop, Downtown Mini Mall II, was unharmed in the fire. It is now the last bastion of that antiques-heavy era. But the Mini Mall held in its nooks and crannies much more than just antiques.

You might find a young seamstress’ updated take on vintage clothing, cast iron skillets, old National Geographics, mysterious photographs from a century ago, that last item to outfit a baby’s nursery, a dusty accordion in tip-top shape, antique dolls too sly-eyed to be trusted; and in the window, a barrel full of swords and other curious replica weaponry.

And talk about small business. Scores of dealers have sold their wares in stalls at the mini malls. One photographer even used the Mini Mall as her homebase. It’s never been the flashiest or biggest business around, but you could set up your space and make some money without having to tend shop everyday — even before the internet changed how people sell things to other people.

Our heart goes out to the business owners who lost their work in the fire. We worry, too, for the neighbors temporarily displaced on that east block of the Square — businesses, apartment dwellers, employees. We are grateful to our firefighters, who kept the blaze, huge though it was, from spreading to other historic buildings on the Square.

Our Square now has a black, gaping maw on one side. We are wounded, too, now, in knowing that our beloved downtown is not invulnerable.

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