Holiday hosting: 9 tips for entertaining guests
Do you plan to invite friends and relatives over for the holidays? Here are some simple steps you can follow to ensure your event goes off without a hitch.
1. Plan everything, from the menu and decor down to the music, well in advance to avoid any oversights.
2. Make sure you have enough chairs and place settings to accommodate your guests and stock up on items like tissues and toilet paper.
3. Clean the rooms your guests will have access to — the bathroom should be spotless — and put away fragile items for safekeeping.
4. If you have pets, place their food and water bowls, bedding, and toys in a quiet room so they won’t be underfoot all night.
5. Serve dishes that you’re familiar with to avoid the stress of following a new recipe and eliminate the risk that it won’t turn out.
6. Prepare as many dishes as possible in advance so you simply have to defrost or reheat them the day of the party.
7. Greet each guest at the door, and have a designated spot where they can put their coats. Make introductions if necessary.
8. Consider using place cards to separate couples at the dinner table to encourage mingling and conversations.
9. Leave out glasses and a pitcher of iced water that guests can help themselves to throughout the evening.
Finally, don’t forget to relax and enjoy the party.
4 benefits of supporting local farmers
This year, National Ag Day is celebrated on March 21. The theme is Agriculture: Growing a Climate for Tomorrow. This campaign encourages Americans to recognize and celebrate the farmers, ranchers, foresters, farmworkers, and other agricultural stewards across the United States. In honor of this event, here are four benefits of supporting local farmers.
1. Protect the environment. Most small, local farmers employ sustainable growing practices to minimize their environmental impact. Moreover, when food products don’t have to be shipped across the country, it reduces air pollution and minimizes the amount of packaging that ends up in landfills.
2. Eat healthier. The less distance your food travels, the less chance for contamination, expiration, and other issues. Besides, seasonal fruits and vegetables taste better and have a higher nutrition content.
3. Bolster the community. Supporting local farmers means supporting the local economy. When you buy from a local farmer, that money is reinvested into other businesses and services that help improve community life for everyone.
4. Support animal welfare. Local meats, cheeses, and eggs often come from family farms where the animals have been raised in favorable living conditions without hormones or antibiotics. You can feel good about what you’re eating.
Each farmer in the United States feeds 144 people, much more than ever. This National Ag Day, thank a farmer for all they do.
March 19-25: National Poison Prevention Week – Steps to take when poisoning is suspected
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has this important information for you.
If you suspect a child or adult has ingested poison, remain calm first.
- Call 911 if the victim has collapsed. If the victim is not breathing, call 911, then give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
- If the victim is awake and alert, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. It is open 24/7.
- Be prepared to give the victim’s age and approximate weight.
- Describe the substance. Read from the container if available.
- Never make the victim vomit unless instructed to do so by Poison Control.
- Give your address and phone number. Stay on the phone for instructions from the emergency operator. The specialist may need to call you back.
- Medicines: Turn on a light when you give or take medicines. Read medication directions. Keep medicines in their original bottles. Store them in a safe place where they can’t be reached by children or teenagers.
- Household cleaners and chemicals: Keep chemicals, cleaners, and beauty products in their original containers. Always read the label before using it.
- Never mix cleaning products together. Doing so could produce toxic gases. Wear clothing that covers the skin when you spray pesticides or other chemicals.
- Open the windows and use a fan when using chemicals in the house.
Protecting young children
- Keep drugs and chemicals in childproof cabinets that children can’t reach.
- Don’t take medicine in front of children since they often try to copy adults. When giving children medication, never call it “candy.”
- Caution guests are not to leave drugs where children can find them. Don’t leave your own next dose on the counter.
Interesting Things to Know
The Irish ballad of beauty and mystery
The ballad Danny Boy perhaps perfectly reflects the pain of the diaspora from Ireland and has become an Irish anthem. But the tune’s origins are obscure, its lyrics a mystery.
Interestingly, the lyrics weren’t written by an Irishman, but English lawyer Frederic Edward Weatherly, who wrote two stanzas of the song in 1910 without a tune to go with it. How the lyrics were set to music is hotly debated. Some say that in 1912, Weatherly’s Irish sister-in-law sent him the music to Londonderry Air. Others say that Weatherly’s sister-in-law was living in Ouray, Colorado, and set Frederic’s poem to the tune of Londonderry Air herself.
Londonderry Air is an ancient tune with roots in Ireland and Scotland, perhaps even Celtic origins. The tune was first published in 1851 by Jane Ross, who heard it played by a blind traveling fiddler. Before the tune became famous as Danny Boy, it had been arranged many times as Londonderry Air with many different lyrics, usually patriotic.
Even so, Danny Boy’s well-known lyrics continue to intrigue.
For one thing, we can only speculate about the narrator, who says that Danny Boy must leave for a long while, but the narrator must stay, pledging to wait for him always, even to death. While the song is a favorite of tenors, the lyrics can be read as a woman longing for her beloved, a father lamenting his son, or even a paean to a sibling. In the second to last verse, we know it is not the mother singing because she has been brought low by Danny Boy’s absence.
In addition, nowhere in the lyrics does it say why Danny Boy must leave. Some say the ‘pipes calling across the glen’ suggest that Danny Boy participated in an uprising. In some versions, notably that of Sinead O’Connor, the verses are changed to be explicitly political: Danny Boy is fighting for the freedom of Ireland.
Finally, the longing for Danny Boy changes in the last two stanzas. It becomes clear that Danny Boy has been so long gone that he is feared dead. Only in heaven will they all be reunited.
Interesting Things to Know
Don’t rely on luck, designate a sober drive this St. Patricks Day
Even though it feels like spring sprung a couple of weeks ago, St. Patrick’s Day is often looked at as the unofficial start of spring and a time to celebrate with friends at pubs, parties, and festivals.
Unfortunately, these celebrations have resulted in St. Patrick’s Day becoming one of the year’s most dangerous times to be on the road. During the week of St. Patrick’s Day in 2022, five traffic fatalities and 72 individuals were injured in alcohol-related crashes on Virginia roadways.*
“With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday this year, there will be even more opportunities for Virginians to celebrate the beginning of the warmer seasons,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Don’t let your first celebration of the season be your last. St. Patrick’s Day can be a fun time to have a pint with a pal but remember, getting behind the wheel when intoxicated is no way to celebrate. Driving drunk is a choice with deadly consequences for you, your passengers, and every other motorist sharing the road with you. Never drive drunk or under the influence of drugs.”
Safety isn’t about luck. If you’re going to party, party with a plan:
- Ensure you have a designated sober driver and a plan to use public transportation or a ride-share service BEFORE any drinking begins.
- Buzzed driving is drunk driving. Be honest with yourself and know that even if you only plan on having one drink, you should plan on having a designated driver.
- Walking while intoxicated can also be deadly. Being under the influence can cause a lack of attention to their surroundings and put pedestrians at risk of being hit by a vehicle.
- If you see a drunk driver on the road, pull over safely and dial #77 on a cell phone or call 911.
- If you know someone who has been drinking and is about to drive, take the keys and make arrangements to get them home safely.
- If you are driving, keep an eye out for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users on the roadways.
To further prevent traffic deaths and injuries during St. Patrick’s Day and during the traditional Spring Break season, the Virginia State Police will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E., the Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. The state-sponsored, national program incorporates a nine-day statistical counting period that begins at 12:01 a.m., March 11, 2023, and concludes at midnight on March 19, 2023.
All Virginians are reminded to keep safety first anytime you are behind the wheel. Always buckle up, avoid distractions, put your phone down, share the road, and drive drug and alcohol-free.
*Source: Virginia Highway Safety Office, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
3 countries leading the way in women’s rights
To celebrate International Women’s Day, here’s a look at three nations working hard to advance women’s rights.
For over ten years, Iceland has topped the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. Iceland established an equal pay law mandating equal pay and terms of employment for both men and women. Iceland also passed a law in 2010 requiring company boards to have a minimum of 40 percent women. In 2009, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir became Iceland’s first female prime minister.
2. New Zealand
New Zealand was the first self-governed nation to allow women the right to vote in 1893. Two women have held the position of prime minister so far in New Zealand, and around one-third of the parliament is female. In 2018, New Zealand’s parliament unanimously passed the Equal Pay Amendment Bill, guaranteeing equal pay for workers, regardless of gender.
Women in Denmark generally work outside the home and pursue careers while raising a family because of the country’s generous parental leave and tax-subsidized daycare. Additionally, over 40 percent of the representatives in Denmark’s parliament are female, and so are many of the country’s ministers. Denmark’s first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, took office in 2011.
Many countries have made considerable efforts to advance gender equality in recent years. Still, there’s a long way to go to achieve full parity between men and women.
The great chocolate egg rescue
The residents of Cocoaville were busy one morning preparing for the big Easter picnic. The whole town looked forward to this event, held yearly in a magnificent field of tulips. As was the tradition, each villager brought a dish to share.
Jen the Hen had just put the finishing touches on her succulent vegetable salad when she heard a knock on the door. Opening it, she saw her neighbor, Sonny the Bunny, holding a box of chocolate eggs and looking entirely despondent.
“What’s happening?” asked Jen with a worried voice.
“It’s my eggs,” he moaned, showing her his ruined chocolate eggs. “I left them by the window, and the sun melted them.”
“Oh, I see,” his friend replied. “But they’re not completely melted. I’m sure we can rescue them.”
“Do you really think so?” replied Sonny hopefully.
“Sure! Hurry home and get all your candies and come right back,” directed Jen, already rummaging through her cupboards.
A few minutes later, the rabbit returned with an assortment of sweets, including caramels, licorice, and all sorts of all sorts! Jen found jujubes, yogurt-coated raisins, and pralines in her own kitchen.
The two neighbors set out immediately, decorating the chocolate eggs. Their minds turned to the villagers.
“Look!” exclaimed Jen. “With all these colorful bits, this egg looks like Brock the Peacock!”
“And with the yogurt-covered raisins, this one will look like Sam the Lamb!”
After they’d given each egg a personal touch, they put them carefully into a cooler. Proud of their work, the hen and rabbit made their way to the tulip field, where they made a grand entrance. The locals were so impressed with Sonny’s unique chocolate eggs that they offered heartfelt congratulations.
“All the credit goes to my charming neighbor,” he replied, gesturing to Jen. “Her brilliant idea made my eggs turn out so beautifully.”
Ever since that day, Cocoaville has had a new tradition. A friendly chocolate egg competition takes place each year during the Easter picnic.
By Sarah Beauregard and Johannie Dufour
Translated by Lynette Adams
Wind: 3mph S
UV index: 5