You eagerly rip open the shiny, gift-wrapped box you received in the mail. As you peer into the present, you gasp! The sticker says, "Keep Refrigerated" -- but the delicacy inside feels like it’s at room temperature! Oh, no! How can you be sure that food survives holiday shipping? Follow these handy tips from to make sure what you send and receive is handled properly.

Holiday time is a difficult time when it comes to maintaining our weight and preventing that dreaded weight gain. Between the holiday gatherings and home-baked goodies, we really have to work hard to squeeze that exercise and physical activity into our busy days.

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You recently had your private water supply tested, hoping to gain valuable information about the quality and condition of your water. Upon receiving the water analysis report, you find yourself looking at confusing columns of decimal numbers, abbreviations, and contaminants that are difficult to pronounce. What does this all mean?

Parasitic wasp attacks corn borers.

Growers are reporting success with biological control of insect pests in peppers, and research data backs them up. Is this a good option for you? Which pests are controlled, and what are the risks?

Susan Alexander (far right) swears in new PACAA officers; from left to right Bob Pollock (Past President), Rob Goodling (President), Tom Butzler (President Elect), Dwane Miller (Vice-President), Andrew Frankenfield (Secretary), and Amber Yutzy (Treasurer)

New officers were sworn in at the Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Agents annual meeting on November 17

4-H Palette of Fun Art Club members and (back l-r)leader Susan Boyd-Ridyard, Julia Sullivan, and leader Malgosia Liszka

Julia Sullivan from Project Linus was invited to the 4-H Palette of Fun Art Club meeting on December 2.

4-H Palette of Fun Art Club members and (back l-r)leader Susan Boyd-Ridyard, Julia Sullivan, and leader Malgosia Liszka

Julia Sullivan from Project Linus was invited to the 4-H Palette of Fun Art Club meeting on December 2.

Stan McKee (in front of cooler with blue hat) surveys the operation within PACAA's food booth.

The Pennsylvania Association of County Agricultural Agents main fundraiser is the food booth at Ag Progress Days (APD). Without committed volunteers, the association would not be able carry out the tasks for the three day August event.

There is nothing like opening the front door on a cold winter evening and being greeted by the inviting smells of beef stew or chicken noodle soup wafting from a slow cooker. Besides the good aromas there is the satisfaction of knowing that your meal is ready to serve. Winter is not the only time a slow cooker is useful. In the summer, using this small appliance can avoid introducing heat from a hot oven. At any time of year, a slow cooker can make life a little more convenient and it takes less electricity to use a slow cooker rather than an oven.

It has been quite a few years now, but I remember pulling a chair up to the kitchen counter when my children were small so they could stand beside me while I was cooking. They wanted to see what I was doing and be part of the action! Allowing the kids to help was usually messy and took a lot longer, but we had fun and made some great memories. I am happy to say that both my children are pretty good cooks today and my son even uses his culinary skills to impress the young ladies!!

Blueberries were on my mind as we bicycled through coastal Maine in October. Today I found a new study that shows the continuing promise of better health offered by eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and (coincidentally) berries! The study showed that the risk of heart attack was reduced by one half in people who ate this way over a four year period. The study participants were people with a higher risk of heart disease due to a specific gene.1

The kitchen is considered by many to be one of the most important rooms in the house because of its role in independent living. The ability to cook is a daily activity that helps a person remain independent. Kitchen designs and modifications that foster home safety are essential. There are many products and practices that can help increase accessibility while maintaining a safe working environment.

Since I acquired a “super blender” with a dynamite motor, I have begun drinking summer fruits and vegetables on occasion! When time is short, I can down several servings while working on a project or traveling in the car. For the fruity version, a little known dairy product called kefir is a wonderful base for my fruit smoothie.

Can’t stand Broccoli? Research into the evolution of taste yields interesting food for thought. Our five taste senses– sweet, salty, umami (savory), bitter and sour – equip us for consuming the essentials for survival – energy, salt, and protein – as well as avoidance of poisonous or rotten food.

The term “Amish”, when attached to food products, enhances sales, as the obsession for hand-crafted, artisan foods converges with the natural and local food movements.