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Family dinner: Evolving, good for kids

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During years as kids grow, family dinner time tends to change, but it remains one of the fundamental building blocks of kids’ character and knowledge, experts say.

With young children, families might have to eat early, ignore some table manners, and endure the usual bouts of crying, mess and chaos, according to PlanningWithKids.com.
As the kids grow, dinner time has less chaos, but perhaps more sullen children as they reach teenage years.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely, says Harvard Medical School Professor Anne Fishel, co-founder of The Family Dinner Project.


For one thing, research published in New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development has found that dinner conversations are essential in building vocabulary, acquiring general knowledge and understanding culturally appropriate talk.

Researchers found that young children learned 1,000 rare words at the dinner table, compared to only 143 from stories read allowed. This helps children read earlier and more easily.

For school-age kids, regular mealtimes are a predictor of high achievement scores. Adolescents who ate family meals five to seven times a week, were twice as likely to get A’s in school, according to the Washington Post.

One study in Pediatric Psychology even found that family dinner rituals even acted as a protector for children with asthma.

For adolescents, a number of studies showed that regular dinners lowered high risk behaviors and mood problems.

The key is emphasizing interpersonal relationships with casual conversations, not scolding or yelling at each other.

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Fresh summer meals inspired by Asian cuisine

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Are you looking for delicious, healthy recipes to try this season? If so, there are a variety of Asian dishes that are light, low-calorie, and ideally suited for the hot weather. Here are a few simple ways to let Asian cuisine inspire your summer meals.

Use a wok
Only a small amount of oil is needed when you cook in a wok, which helps lower the fat content of your meals. In addition, the short cook time allows ingredients to retain more of their nutritional value. Plus, you’ll spend less time standing over a hot stove.

Favor fresh veggies
Fresh vegetables are a core component of many Asian dishes. You can serve them raw as an appetizer, steamed as a side, or grilled on the barbecue. Rich in vitamins and fiber, they’re also easy to digest and will increase your satiety.

Try your hand at sushi
Sushi is the perfect summer meal and easier to make than you might think. Assembling the rolls with a bamboo mat will simplify the process, and you can pick up the ingredients you need at your local Asian food market or in your grocery store’s international aisle.


Make rice your go-to side
This grain is high in fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. It takes one to two hours to digest, which will leave you feeling full for some time. Plus, it’s a great source of energy. Easy to prepare in large quantities, rice is equally delicious served hot or cold.

Visit the farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and restaurants in your area to enjoy tasty, nutritious meals all summer long.

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Easy cream scones and lemon curd

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Enjoy the sunny, sharp flavor of lemon curd on a warm scone, fresh from the oven. It doesn’t take a pastry chef to throw this combo together, either. From start to finish, these scones are ready to eat in less than an hour, and the lemon curd takes about 15 minutes, plus time to chill in the refrigerator (overnight is best). Meyer lemons, with their lower acidity and sweet, floral flavor are perfect for this curd, but regular lemons are also delicious. If you like more than just plain scones, jazz them up with dried fruits, nuts, or chocolate chips.

Lemon curd:
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (Meyer lemons preferred if available)
Zest from 1 to 2 lemons, depending on size and preferred flavor intensity
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Place eggs, sugar, salt, juice, and zest in a medium saucepan, away from heat. Whisk the ingredients together until smooth and incorporated. Place over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until the mixture thickens, around five minutes. Turn the heat all the way to low when the mixture thickens and add the butter. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and pour into a jar or other storage container, then chill. Makes around two cups and keeps for about a week in the refrigerator.

Cream scones:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1-1/4 cups heavy cream, plus more for brushing
Coarse sugar for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour, stir to combine. Alternatively, you can combine in the bowl of a large food processor and quickly pulse to mix dry ingredients. Add butter and toss to coat.

Using your fingers or a pastry blender, or quick pulses if using a food processor, work the butter into the flour until pea-sized. If using a food processor, dump flour mixture into a bowl now. Make a well in the center of your flour/butter mixture and add the egg and cream, mixing with a fork while incorporating dry ingredients a little at a time until a shaggy, dry dough forms. Don’t overwork the dough — it’s okay if it looks a little bit dry.

Once the wet ingredients are incorporated, use your hands to gently knead the dough until it just comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a 1-inch thick round. Cut into wedges and place wedges onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, giving each wedge room to expand. Brush the dough wedges with cream and sprinkle with your coarse sugar.

Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Scones can be made ahead of time and stored in a covered container.

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This coastal delicacy can carry a nasty bacteria

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Some people should pay more attention to that little warning on the seafood menu about the dangers of consuming raw fish.

Of course, millions of people every year enjoy a plate of oysters on the half-shell washed down with a crisp chardonnay or beer, and it’s an actual way of life in coastal areas. So, one should not overstate the danger, except when it comes to people with compromised immune systems.

If you have diabetes, liver disease, blood disorders, stomach or digestion issues, or if you take immune-suppressing drugs for cancer or steroids for breathing problems, then never eat oysters on the half-shell.

In fact, if you have any of these problems, don’t even touch brackish water (partly salt, partly fresh) or seawater habitats of oysters. Even a small cut (or in one case, a new tattoo) can expose you to nasty bacteria called Vibrio parahaemolyticus.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80,000 people each year get vibriosis, the disease caused by bacteria. Most have relatively mild, but very unpleasant symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. But about 100 people each year die from it, mostly those with the underlying health problems mentioned earlier. In the worst cases, it can cause blood infections, blistering skin lesions, and even necessitate limb amputations.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a naturally occurring and has nothing to do with water pollution, so even water that seems to be clear can contain it. It tends to proliferate in warmer waters between May and October.

If you don’t have any of those underlying problems, get your oysters at a restaurant that closely follows oyster guidelines, such as freshly shucked oysters and keeping the oysters continuously on ice.

Anyone can eat oysters when they are completely cooked. The bacteria dies in oysters when fried for three minutes at 375 degrees, baked at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, or boiled for three minutes.

Neither hot sauce (no matter how spicy) nor lemon kills the bacteria.

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Brewing tea for maximum flavor, benefits

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Sipping a hot flavorful cup of tea is a good way to relax and relieve stress. Though you may drink tea purely for pleasure, it’s good to remember that tea is also good for your health. Regardless of whether it’s green, black, or red tea, it is rich in antioxidants that help your heart.

Health matters aside, tea drinkers want to use the best brewing method to enhance the flavor of the tea. Here’s how to do it, according to the Johns Hopkins Medical Letter:

* Start with loose leaves or tea bags. Use one rounded teaspoon of loose tea per cup. For a stronger tea, add an extra bag or an extra teaspoon of leaves to the pot.

* Use fresh, cold water. Run the tap for one minute to aerate the water and to clear standing water from the pipes. The oxygen in water opens up the tea-leaf and helps to bring out the flavor. Bottled water should be shaken before heating it.


* Get the water hot, but don’t overheat. Use a rolling boil for black tea but heat up to the boiling point for green tea.

* Pre-warm your cup. A cold cup can interfere with steeping. Let warm water stand in the cup for a few minutes first.

* Steep appropriately. Green tea should be steeped for two minutes, black for five to 10 minutes. Steeping too long can cause a bitter taste.

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4 ways to connect with local farmers

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National AG Day, which takes place on March 23, presents an annual opportunity to recognize and celebrate the essential role that agriculture plays in the daily lives of all Americans. If you want to learn more about the contributions local farmers make to your community, here are four ways you can connect with them.

1. Visit a farmers’ market. If you want to get to know the producers in your area and buy fresh, locally grown products directly from the source, this is a great option. Use the USDA’s national farmers market directory to find one near you.

2. Participate in agritourism. Many small farms offer on-site services to increase their revenue and provide local entertainment. These can include horseback riding, u-pick operations, harvest festivals, bed and breakfast accommodations, cooking classes, petting zoos, educational tours, and more.

3. Join a CSA. As a member of a community-supported agriculture group, you’ll receive a weekly share of seasonal crops from one or more participating farms in your region. Many CSAs also offer private tours, social events, and other perks for members. You can use the USDA’s online CSA directory to find a group near you.


4. Shop at a farm store. Similar to a farmers’ market, visiting a farm store allows you to chat with local producers, ask questions about how the farm operates and purchase fresh produce on-site. Some also sell honey, fresh juice, eggs, homemade pastries, and other goods.

For more information about National AG Day and how you can support American farmers, visit agday.org.

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Picky eaters: Go with the flow

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Here’s a mystery for all times. Why will a kid eat Harry Potter dirt-flavored jelly beans but not a green bean?

The fun of the gross-out? Because a friend gave it to them? Maybe on a dare?

Some say parents should use the same psychology with foods kids hate. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says one strategy is to name the food. That’s not steamed carrots! It’s X-ray Vision Coins!

Might work. Seems like a lot of trouble for carrots.


In the end, picky eating is more about accepting new tastes, textures, and the fact that they aren’t in control of what goes on their plate (thankfully), says Dina Rose, a sociologist and author of It’s Not About the Broccoli.

Kids need up to 12 exposures to a food before they accept it, Rose says. That might mean just looking at it. Adults might remember having the same experience with school food.

The key is not to completely cater to kids’ tastes. They might want macaroni and cheese at every meal, but parents shouldn’t make a separate meal just for them. Remember they need exposure to foods.

Sally Sampson, the co-author of The Picky Eater Project, says she used one strategy with her children that offered them an option. If they did not like what was being served, they could leave the table and choose either cottage cheese, Cheerios, or plain yogurt. Her children said these options were just boring.

If meals are pleasant and happy, kids won’t really want to leave the table.

Other tactics: Involve kids in preparing the food. Help kids grow a vegetable garden. Be sure to offer healthy snacks when they come home from school.

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Mother’s Day Weekend Paint Party... @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
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Bring Mom to The Studio for our Mother’s Day Weekend Special. Buy two tickets and save! This will be a lovely piece to add to your collections… and so much fun to paint. Join us[...]
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Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area – behind Mount Bleak. Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA Jet Propulsion Lab[...]
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2:00 pm Mother’s Day Weekend Paint Party... @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Mother’s Day Weekend Paint Party... @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
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Mother's Day Weekend Paint Party - Daisies @ The Studio - A Place for Learning
Bring Mom to The Studio for our Mother’s Day Weekend Special. Buy two tickets and save! This will be a lovely piece to add to your collections… and so much fun to paint. Join us[...]
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Law Enforcement Officers Memoria... @ Front Royal Gazebo
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Please join Warren County/Front Royal Back the Blue, in partnership with the Fraternal Order of Police and Front Royal/Warren County Lodge #33, during National Police Week as we honor our local Law Enforcement Officers who[...]
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Millionaire Maker Golf Tournament @ Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club
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Join us for the 2021 Millionaire Maker held at award-winning Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club. The Millionaire Maker is a combined golfing and networking experience! Serious, amateur, and novice golfers are welcome. *Four golfers who[...]
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Captain’s Choice/Best Ball Golf ... @ Bowling Green Country Club South
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Captain’s Choice/Best Ball Golf Tournament @ Bowling Green Country Club South
Please join us for the Captain’s Choice/Best Ball Golf Tournament, a fundraiser for the Linden Volunteer Fire Department. The event will be held Saturday, May 15, 2021, at Bowling Green Country Club South (768 Bowling[...]
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Fort Loudoun Day: Living History @ Historic Fort Loudoun Site
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Fort Loudoun Day: Living History @ Historic Fort Loudoun Site
Bring the family and enjoy a fun day learning about the history of the French & Indian War era at the site of Colonel George Washington’s headquarters for the Virginia Regiment. Meet living history interpreters[...]
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National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
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National Kids to Parks Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Children’s Discovery Area: This National Kids to Parks Day, join us for fun-filled activities and music at our interactive discovery stations. Kids, pick up a scavenger hunt brochure and hike on the Track Trail. Just[...]
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Virginia Psychic Fair @ Arlington-Fairfax Elks Lodge
May 16 @ 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Virginia Psychic Fair @ Arlington-Fairfax Elks Lodge
Psychic Fair for both those who are serious and for those who are just curious. Event can be a life changing experience or just a fun time! Many of the best psychics, mediums, healers, and[...]
1:00 pm Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
What’s that buzzing? Meet with local apiarists of the Beekeepers of Northern Shenandoah (BONS) and discover the art of Apiculture (a.k.a. Beekeeping). This monthly program series examines all aspects of beekeeping from hive construction to[...]