All posts by Guest Writer

Seasonal Treats with a Secret Ingredient!

Crisp fall days call for flavorful desserts that warm you from the inside out. There’s no better way to capture the flavor of fall than with dishes that celebrate traditional seasonal favorites like cinnamon, spice and tart, juicy apples.

These desserts are perfect for entertaining, and a secret ingredient makes them quick and easy so you have plenty of free time to work up an appetite and earn an extra bite (or two). Apple butter is more than just a spread for toast; it’s a versatile ingredient that can enhance your favorite recipes. With Musselman’s Apple Butter, made the old-fashioned way for perfect texture and a deep, rich flavor, you can make it simple to satisfy your craving for a taste of autumn at its best.

Find more fall tips and recipes perfect for sharing with your family at musselmans.com.

Caramel Crumble Bars
1          box (15 1/4 ounces) yellow cake mix, dry
1/2      cup butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
3/4      cup Musselman’s Apple Butter, plus 3 tablespoons
1          egg
1          package (11 ounces) caramels, unwrapped
2/3      cup walnuts, chopped
2/3      cup flaked coconut, sweetened
2          tablespoons butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 13-by-9-inch baking pan. With electric mixer on low speed, beat dry cake mix and 1/2 cup softened butter until mixture is crumbly. Spoon 1 cup cake mix mixture into medium bowl; set aside. Add 3/4 cup apple butter and egg to remaining mixture. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy.

Spread evenly into pan. Bake 20 minutes, or until starting to brown and top is set. Place caramels, 2 tablespoons butter and remaining apple butter in microwavable bowl. Microwave on high 3-4 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth and melted.

Pour caramel mixture evenly over partially baked crust. If caramel has cooled and set, microwave 1 minute until soft and pourable.

Combine walnuts, coconut and 2 tablespoons melted butter with reserved cake mix mixture. Mix until crumbly. Break up topping and sprinkle evenly over caramel. Bake 16-18 minutes, or until topping is starting to brown. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

 

Easy Apple Pie Bars
Nonstick cooking spray
7          cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
1          cup Musselman’s Apple Butter
1 1/2   teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/2      cup brown sugar
2          frozen pie crusts, defrosted
1          egg white
2          tablespoons sugar
1/2      teaspoon ground cinnamon
1          cup powdered sugar
2          tablespoons milk

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place diced apples in large mixing bowl. Add apple butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla and brown sugar. Mix until apples are evenly coated. Place one pie crust in bottom of greased pan. Slowly stretch out crust to cover pan’s bottom. Cut some edges off, if necessary. Spread apple filling evenly over crust.

With rolling pin, roll second crust to make it same size as pan. Place second crust on top of apple pie filling and tuck down edges to cover.

To make topping: In small bowl, whisk egg white until foamy and brush over crust. In another bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over crust. Bake 50-60 minutes until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly before cutting.

To make glaze: In small bowl, combine powdered sugar, milk and remaining vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled bars and serve.

Source: Musselman’s Apple Butter/Family Features

A Book That Takes Its Time

Mindfulness is “the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences happening in the present moment.” In a world filled with so much hustle and bustle, a world where we believe in cramming as much as possible into our schedules, it seems almost impossible to be mindful. Time is precious, and we seem to want to plan it down to the very last second. But with all our busy schedules, is there any time left to enjoy life in the present moment? Can we truly be mindful?

Irene Smit and Astrid Van der Hulst, two authors who have taken notice of this problem, have sat down and created a book to do something about it. Beginning their career as editors at Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, they are now the cofounders and creative directors of Flow magazine, a popular international publication filled with paper goodies and beautiful illustrations that celebrate creativity, imperfection, and positivity. Smit and Van der Hulst, have invented a Flow book that adds a little more stillness, downtime, and thought to your life. An unhurried adventure in creative mindfulness, A Book That Takes Its Time inspires you to do just that…take your time. Smit and Van der Hulst’s new book is all about taking time to breathe, time to learn, time to create, time to reflect, time to let go, and time to be kind. With each page encouraging you to linger and engage with each topic, this book is truly one where you will take your time. Filled with postcards, stickers, decorative papers, and hands-on activities like crafts, prompts, and journals, your work will result in cherished keepsakes.

A Book That Takes Its Time is the epitome of slowing down and living life in the now. In hopes that their book will lessen your worries and help you feel more at peace, Smit and Van der Hulst encourage you to find satisfaction through mindfulness. The only request that Smit and Van der Hulst have for their readers is that they take their time flipping through the pages and enjoying all this creative piece of mindfulness has to offer.

 

Written by Taylor Ward

Home Equity Basics from Member One

Your home improvement to-do list is a mile long, but you’re lacking the funds to get anything done. Sound familiar? Since the likelihood of stumbling upon a pot of gold is none, consider tapping into your home equity—the difference between what your property is worth and what you still owe on your mortgage. Read on to learn more about how to leverage your home’s hidden value.

Do the math. Home equity is calculated by looking at the value of your home and subtracting the amount you owe on any mortgages. Let’s say your home is valued at $200,000, and you owe $150,000 on your mortgage. That means you have $50,000 in equity you could potentially use to fund a renovation.

Know the difference. With a home equity loan, you receive the money you’re borrowing in a lump sum payment. It usually has a fixed rate and is often best for large, one-time expenses like a new roof. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) operates more like a credit card in that you can draw money as needed from an available maximum amount. This is best for ongoing expenses that require spending flexibility.

Shop around. You have to apply for a home equity loan or line of credit through a financial institution that offers it. As with any loan, shop around for the rate and features that fit your financial situation. It’s important to understand that committing to a home equity loan or line of credit means you’re using your home as collateral—if you don’t repay the loan, it could go into default, and you could risk losing your home. Make sure you understand the terms and only borrow the amount you can afford.

Budget accordingly. One of the most common ways to use a loan or line of credit is for renovations because they add even more value to your home. You can also use it for things you might not expect like college tuition, debt consolidation, or unexpected medical costs. Whatever you decide to fund, make sure it fits your budget. If your income is unstable and you can’t keep up with the payments, it’s probably not a good idea to incur more debt. If you don’t need to borrow much money or you’re just going to use this for basic day-to-day expenses, it might be wise to consider different options—such as a credit card—or reevaluate your spending habits.

Heart to Heart Conversations in Roanoke

This November the Heart to Heart: Conversations on Loving our LGBTQ Neighbors and Strengthening our Faith will be holding a series of discussions in the Roanoke area. These conversations will feature the internationally known speaker, author, and spiritual director, Susan Cottrell. Susan is a wife and mother to five children, two of whom are members of the LGBTQI community, and author of Mom, I’m Gay! Loving Your LGBTQ Child and Strengthening Your Faith and True Colors: Celebrating the Truth and Beauty of the Real You. She has also founded the organization, www.freedhearts.org, a nonprofit that aims to address LGBTQI issues theologically and religiously. Having recently been featured on ABC’S 20/20, Nightline and Good Morning America, Susan is a firm believer that the foundation of faith is based upon one’s love for God and all others.

The main purpose behind the Heart to Heart conversations is to create and promote serious discussion and support for the LGBTQ community. What once started as a one-day event, has now turned into a week-long series of events to promote discussion, love, and understanding. Among many topics discussed, some of the most prominent include curiosity and difficulty with sexual orientation, gender identity, and faith. The Heart to Heart events will be held November 8-12 with the main event, the Heart to Heart Conference, occurring November 11, 9am-2pm at the Christ Episcopal Church in Roanoke. A schedule of these events may be found at www.hearttoheartva.com. Most of these events, unless stated otherwise, are free and open to the public.

Donations can be made to the Heart to Heart foundation online at www.donate.hearttoheartva.com or checks can be made payable to the Roanoke Diversity Center and mailed to 806 Jamison Ave SE, Roanoke, VA 24013. All donations will go towards funding for these conversations that deepen our love and support for the LGBTQ community and featuring authors and leaders, such as Susan Cottrell.

 

Written by Taylor Ward

Save Smarter: Avoid Financial Scams

Being a victim of fraud can be devastating. It’s not just the loss of someone’s hard-earned money that makes it so upsetting; it’s also the breach of one’s privacy and personal information. Here are some common scam tactics and ways to protect yourself and your money.

Skimming devices. These typically appear on gas pumps or ATMs and capture information from the magnetic strip on credit and debit cards. One way to protect your information is to check for obvious signs of tampering like an open or broken box, different color material, or graphics that aren’t aligned correctly. Avoid anything that seems questionable. Another tactic is to go inside a building to pay or withdraw money. Criminals need privacy to install skimmers and are less likely to do so if they can be easily seen.

Fake checks. Criminals will attempt to cheat you out of thousands of dollars by writing you a check for more than is due or claiming you’ve won prize money. You’re then asked to deposit the check and return part of the money. The trick? This is a bad check, and you’re now liable for all the money withdrawn from your account. As a rule of thumb, don’t accept checks or money orders as forms of payment from people you don’t know. Stick to cash or payment services like PayPal or Venmo.

Romance scams. In this scam, criminals use a dating service, online ad, or social media to establish a relationship as quickly as possible. After the criminal gains the victim’s trust, they could propose marriage, make plans to meet in person (which rarely happens), and eventually ask for money. To avoid this scam, be wary of who you communicate with online, especially those you haven’t met in person. Never give out your account information to anyone online or over the phone, no matter how legitimate it may seem.

Synthetic identity theft. This type of fraud is accomplished by combining real and fake information to create a fictitious identity. Typically, the criminal will use a social security number (SSN) and pair it with a fake name then use this to obtain credit, open deposit accounts, and obtain driver’s licenses and passports. To protect your identity, don’t carry your social security card unless you really need it. Keep any paperwork that contains your SSN in a safe place and shred any unnecessary documents that contain the number.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

Learning from Pet Adoption

I was featured in a video back in 2015. It was supposed to be a quick screen test for my business partner Dan Wensley. During the test, Dan kept the video running, and it turned into quite a testament to the influence pets can have on us. Sadly, this became a type of eulogy for my cat, Sydney. Shortly after making the video, Sydney developed diabetes and other complications and died on March 16, 2015. The following is an excerpt from that video, adapted for print:

Sydney

“I got Sydney, then aged one, spontaneously from Angels of Assisi in downtown Roanoke. I just popped down there, answered various questions, filled out the forms, and adopted him. He was mine.

I didn’t like cats at that time. I used to call the city to catch cats that wandered into my yard! It was all quite strange. I remember that first day when I got him, carrying him in the transportation box to various business meetings, quite at a loss on what to do with him! But I brought him home, and friends helped me get a litter box, food, toys, and a climbing tower.

Sydney

Since then, I have become one hundred percent blown away by how attached you can become to an animal. I was studying cats recently, the history of them. They weren’t pack animals. Before they were somewhat domesticated, they used to roam about on their own. I think that explains some of the mystery of their behaviors. They don’t necessarily bond in the way that some other pets do. Contrary to popular opinion, they are extremely affectionate. They like to be given attention, petted, and loved. When they’ve had enough of that, they just go off with no warning, and do their own thing. That’s what makes them tremendous I think, their little independent spirit, exploring, sleeping, and investigating for hours on end.

Sydney is the gentlest cat I have ever seen. With his sweet purring, the way he jumps on the bed and gives his soft little pushes to my face with his little head, curling up right against me. He likes to make sure his body is against mine when he sleeps. He’s never hissed, never scratched me, he’s really just totally perfect. But then he goes hunting and it’s like Jekyll and Hyde! He hasn’t lost those wild instincts.

A huge thing Sydney has taught me, is about my life with God. I’m a person who believes in Him. I think what moves me so much with Sydney is that I have nothing but affection for him. I want him to live the most exciting life possible, which he does– and I just know he’s gonna live for many years. He’s not gonna die young! But it can be heartbreaking, [when] I want to approach him, or give something to him that I know he’d like. He’s very timid, and he’ll run away. It’s like he won’t believe that what I’m going to do is a good thing. Sometimes I may believe in certain instances that God isn’t out for my good, or isn’t interested in me. And just seeing my relationship with Sydney and my desire for his best, I can’t help but think of God and me. I’m not meaning to humanize Sydney, but his lack of belief towards my goodness extended towards him is a learning experience. It’s like because of Sydney and his life with me, I can now experience so much more clearly the feeling of God being grieved when I don’t trust or respond to Him. Who would have thought that a cute little cat, adopted a whim, can have such an impact on one’s life!”

When Sydney died, I never would have expected the sense of loss I felt. I know this sounds silly, he is just a cat after all. As I said before, when I adopted Sydney I didn’t even like cats! However, on March 19, 2017, I was ready to adopt another cat.

Willow

I went to Petco, with my friend Ben, because they provide cats from Angels of Assisi. They had just one cat, Willow. Ben picked him up, cuddled him, and said, “He’s the one for you, River!” He was sure of it. So, I trusted Ben and we got Willow. It turns out Willow was a cat I met at Angels a few weeks earlier, when I was cat browsing, before he was moved to Petco!

Boy, could one cat be so different from another! The vet says Willow is “type A” personality, and feisty too! Unlike Sydney, who delicately nibbled on his food throughout the day, Willow sounds like a piglet when he eats and never has enough. He’s already on a weight loss diet!

Willow

Willow quickly won the hearts of many at The Aurora Studios in Downtown Roanoke, where I bring him to the office with me. He is an easygoing cat, riding in his carrier to work on the handlebars of my bicycle, like nothing out of the ordinary is happening!

I still miss Sydney. Writing this article is the first time I have looked at photos of him since he died. And I threw out everything that was his after he died. I just kept the photos. But now Willow lives with me and I love him.

River and Willow

Angels of Assisi have been wonderful throughout. If you can have a pet, please do consider adopting one from Angels. They have many available, and are terrific at helping you choose one that has the personality that suits you. Who knows what wonderful impact that cuddly bundle of sweet personality and mystery will have on you?

Visit www.angelsofassisi.org for more information on animals you can help through donations, adoption, and volunteering.

 

 

Written by River Laker

The Magic of Getting Lost

As a senior in college, I find the question “what are your plans for after graduation?” completely agonizing. Although a little hectic with senior seminar, work, trying to decode my math homework, and trying to make it to the gym at least once this week, my day is going along just fine. Then, someone dares to ask about what I plan to do with my life after college. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know exactly what you want to do. If you’re like me, and most other college students, you have absolutely no idea.

So, naturally, I email my advisor immediately to make an appointment on how my life is going nowhere because I can’t seem to figure out what to do with it. As usual, he calms me down and tells me that I’m exactly where I need to be and that it’s completely natural for a college student to have absolutely no idea where they want to take their diploma. As he always says, “Look at me, I came in as a music major and now I’m an English Professor.” However, this time I came to my advisor’s office for my monthly freak out, he had something else to give me; The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman.

As someone who is very organized, a master of To Do Lists, and needs to have a plan for almost everything in her life, this book was perfect for me. The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost is a coming-of-age memoir about the amazing journey Friedman embarks on when she, a college grad, surprises herself and everyone around her by purchasing a ticket to Ireland. Never having been to Ireland, the good girl who had always done what she was supposed to now finds herself in a strange new country, making friends with a free-spirited Australian who loves nothing more than a good adventure. While abroad, Rachel travels from Ireland, to Australia, and to South America where she discovers her love for travel; all the while finding her true self.

Not only was this book warmhearted, hilarious, and honest, but it offered an amazing insight into what it’s like to travel abroad. This book is a fantastic read and highly recommended for anyone who feels like taking a trip and getting lost for a little bit. Even though my advisor had assured me many times before that it’s perfectly fine to be a little lost right now, I never truly accepted that until I read Rachel Friedman’s memoir. The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost taught me that it’s okay to be unsure of yourself sometimes. It’s okay to be lost. Rachel shows us that in momentarily escaping some of life’s hardest decisions and living for the moment, getting lost allows us to find ourselves.

 

Written by Taylor Ward

 

“Perfection”

What is perfection? According to Dictionary.com, perfect is defined as “conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type.” However, when it comes to wellness, I am not certain there is an exact definition of an ideal type. What makes one individual healthy and happy may not necessarily work for someone else. Even the guidelines set out by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) regarding nutritional intake and the exercise standards promoted by the ACSM (American Academy of Sports Medicine) are just that: guidelines. Both organizations take large volumes of data from hundreds of thousands of people and create standards that fit the majority of the US population regarding what might constitute optimal health. These standards can’t possibly consider each individual’s unique genetic makeup and personal preferences for a fulfilling life.

So why do we strive for perfection when perfection is at best a guess of what might work for some people? Why do we pressure ourselves into comparing what we feel others are doing that seems to be superior, and quite obviously in our minds, the best way to pursue optimal health? Earth Girl recommends we reframe our thinking when we consider our daily habits and how they impact our wellness.

Instead of berating ourselves because we had a piece of cake at a friend’s birthday party and subsequently deciding we have no self control so we might as well give up on living a healthy lifestyle (because in a perfect world we wouldn’t eat any cake), let’s refocus. Birthday parties are fun and a small celebratory piece of delicious chocolate cake might be what we seek as perfection that day. We celebrated, we ate cake, we enjoyed and then we moved on to a healthy option for dinner later that night.

Instead of relinquishing a regular exercise routine because we missed one run to enjoy an evening out with our family (and in a perfect world we would not skip a run), let’s refocus. Time spent with family can also be active and, certainly, quality time with loved ones has amazing health benefits. Enjoy the spontaneity of the situation and clock your three miles the next day.

We often think that unless we pursue everything to its “perfect” ending, we might as well not pursue it at all. Such a sad way to live the adventure called life! Let’s strive to be perfectly imperfect. Or perhaps, imperfectly perfect. Decide what is best for the situation and use the opportunity to grow and enjoy life!

Earth Girl thinks perfection is what we make it. It looks different for everyone so stay on the adventure that makes you perfectly you!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher of Earth Girl Wellness