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Entries from blogs tagged with “Sarah Henning”

Are these cookies or rabbits? Sheesh.

This week it seems I can't twirl in place without stepping on a tray of holiday sweets.

They're everywhere — in my fridge, in the office, even on a group run (What's a group training session without a giant cookie for a post-run snack?).

OK, so I'm partially to blame. I made a ton of cookies for a photo shoot or two. And even though I keep sending those cookies away ("To the trough with you!"), they always seem to pop up somewhere.

And, of course, I'm not the only one producing sweet treats. Above, I've pictured our trough, full of goodies like rum cake, spritz, white-chocolate-dipped pretzels and more.

So, I ask you: How do you handle a never-ending array of sweets?

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Crazy, Stupid, Running: My two favorite movies of the year — what were yours?

Because I'm a boring mom and have no life, I hardly got to see any movies this year. I mean, it's just a hard thing to shell out $40 to a baby sitter for a night out. Add in dinner and a movie and a night out can run between $80 and $100.

That's pretty steep, but that's the way it goes.

So, I hardly got to see any movies in actual sit-down theaters this year. Sure, there were many I wanted to see, but the only movie I can recall shelling out babysitter funds for was "Bridesmaids." Which, was, perhaps, my favorite movie of the year ... until iTunes gave us a chance to watch "Crazy, Stupid, Love." I absolutely loved that movie. And not just because of shirtless Ryan Gosling (above). It was funny, heartfelt and cringe-inducing. Even my husband, who will only watch "romantic comedies" if I swear our next movie is something where they blow up cars, loved it. That's seriously saying something.

Another movie I loved? One I saw just this week. If you follow me on Twitter (@shhenning), you may know that I'm an ultramarathoner. I love running even more than I love Ryan Gosling's abs (have you LOOKED at that picture?)

And, believe it or not, there are different levels of crazy when it comes to ultrarunning. The longest distance I've run is 50 miles, though I have several friends who are 100-milers. Of those, I have four friends who have completed what amounts to the Boston Marathon of ultrarunning: The Western States 100.

It's a race done in the mountains of California and it's incredibly elite. You have to qualify, and then the qualifiers must enter a lottery to get in. It's a huge deal in our weird little sport to make it in, and the people who complete the WS 100 are amazing athletes.

And now those athletes have their own movie: "Unbreakable: The Western States 100." It's a documentary covering the 2010 race, which is considered to be the most competitive one ever. The movie isn't in theaters (our running group had a special screening), but I highly recommend you check out the trailer, below. I'm sure it'll be up on Netflix or iTunes soon, if you like what you see.

Honestly, I think "Unbreakable" might be my favorite "indy" movie of the year, though I am aware it's a pretty strange choice.

What was your favorite movie this year?

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Would a brownie by another name be as sweet?

So, I finally made the black bean brownies I blogged about the other week. The story is that I found a recipe for black bean-based fudge and when Tweeting about that, found out that there's this underground community of people who enjoy and make brownies with black beans. From there, a friend Tweeted this recipe.

Of course, as I am a food writer, the call of black bean brownies was too great. I figured I had to make them — and then use the folks here at Lawrence.com and the Lawrence Journal-World as guinea pigs. Because journalists will eat ANYTHING, right? We're like the vacuum cleaners of the professional world (me included, to be sure). Every paper I'm ever worked at has had its "trough" — a table where sweets and salty snacks live. I'm aware that many companies have their own troughs, but because of the long hours, deadlines and crazy schedules of journalists, I must say ours are very highly regarded.

So, I thought, I'll make the brownies, put them on the trough table and let the News Center masses at them. Then blog about it, because, you know, I report things.

There were a few kinks in my plan, however.

First was the timing. I decided to bring the brownies in on the day of our company-wide holiday feast. Everyone lines up to get turkey with all the trimmings and we sit and enjoy a big lunch together. It's a great tradition, and one I'm very thankful for, but also one for which I totally didn't plan. Whoops.

Secondly was that I TOLD everyone there were black beans in the brownies. I told them for two reasons:

  1. I'm not about to lie because I value honesty as a journalist.
  2. These people are very smart and read my blog and probably would've been pretty suspicious if I brought in "normal" brownies less than a week after blogging about brownies based upon black beans.

So, instead of playing coy, I just brought them in, kept them in the fridge (as per the directions) and pulled them out after everyone was stuffed on turkey and sides. Before they even exited the fridge, my cubicle neighbor, Shaun Hittle, had already put the brownies up on his jokey "LJW NewsCenter Trending Topics" white board.

I think they should've been higher, for all the anxiety about them. They sat unbidden in the trough for about an hour until Lawrence.com editor Trevan McGee, online editor Alex Parker and KUSports producer extraordinaire Nick Nelson decided they'd be brave enough to try them.

And you know what? They didn't die after the first swallow. In fact, they all said the flavor was good, if the texture was a bit too soft.

To sweeten the deal, I had brought in copious amounts of spritz cookies, and Trevan's brownie was so soft that he decided to use it as the cream center of a spritz sandwich, shown below.

Look, I even have proof that he ate it. (Though, the guy once ate a "ghost Chili" in front of a camera, so he's pretty brave.)

Throughout the afternoon, the comments came in from other News Center members.

Cops reporter George Diepenbrock was pretty complementary: “I thought they tasted like a normal brownie, although not as sweet. They also felt more moist than a normal brownie, but I'm not sure if that had anything to do with the beans or not. The one I had fell apart easily. Overall, I did like them and would eat them again.”

And assistant community editor Kim Callahan also thought they were pretty tasty, “Great flavor in the brownies. Couldn't detect the beans. Texture is a bit gooey, but they're really good.”

But KU reporter Andy Hyland wasn't so sure. He ate one after lots of (annoying) nudging from me and basically said, "If you had called them something else, I would've eaten another one."

I guess I could have accurately called them "Flourless Fudgy Chocolate Brownies," and they probably would've been flying out of the trough as fast as the spritz cookies...

That said, judging by the near empty* plate I found this morning, I think they did OK.

*There are four brownies left under the plastic wrap.

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Deck the halls with tinsel and tomatoes

Last week, it was suggested to me that rather that decking the halls with traditional poinsettias, it might be just as easy and more beneficial to decorate for the holidays with the king of summer fruit — the tomato.

In fact, it's already being done by some folks in New Hampshire, a place not known for copious amounts of winter sun.

The idea? Pick up a super dwarf variety (like the "Red Robin" plant above) or two, put the plants in pretty pots and use them to decorate the sunnier windows in your home. You'll have the same festive "red and green" color scheme as a poinsettia, but, obviously, because you'll be getting fruit off of it, a tomato plant is a bonus buy.

If my house had better light (I'm super short on south-facing windows), I would totally try it (tomatoes would go nicely with my fruit tree). Would you?

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My favorite way to showcase fruit during the holiday season

It's festive, it's easy, it's healthy: It's the fruit tree!

And it's one of my favorite Christmas directions. All you need to do is take a cupcake tree and fill it with various fruits. Stick it on a table, counter or mantle and you'll have a reminder to eat your fruit, and get give your fruit bowl a break.

I haven't tried this, but if you'd like to do a healthy version of an advent calendar, you could probably do so easily with a 24-space cupcake holder like mine. Just a thought.

And while I like the one I made this year (above) featuring clementines, apples and a pomegranate, my favorite one so far was the monochromatic all-clementine one I did last year.

Of course, the best thing about a fruit tree, is it's easily changeable, so the second there are bald spots on my current "tree," I can just fill it in until I have all clementines, or maybe all apples. Pretty!

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What was your favorite book of 2011?

My favorite book of the year was easily "The Hunger Games" (and its sequels). Couldn't put it down.

My favorite book of the year was easily "The Hunger Games" (and its sequels). Couldn't put it down. by Sarah Henning

So, early last year I wrote this story about 11 must-reads for 2011. The other day, I checked the list and realized that I had a horrible literary batting average when it came to the must-reads of the year.

I read two of the 11. Hmmm, not so good. Though I loved the two I read — "The Tiger's Wife" and "The Hunger Games" — and I did read a ton of books I absolutely loved this year that weren't on our list (but that's something for another blog).

Here's a list of the original 11:

  • “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson
  • “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness
  • “Super Sad True Love Story” by Gary Shteyngart
  • “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obrecht
  • “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen
  • “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
  • “Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford
  • “The Middle Place” by Kelly Corrigan
  • “Bonhoeffer: A Biography” by Eric Metaxas
  • “Same Kind of Different as Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
  • “Lawrence: Survivors of Quantrill’s Raid” by Katie Armitage

Did you read any of these books? What did you think? And what was your favorite book of the year — on our list or not?

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Brownies made with WHAT?

I've had quite the Twitter and Facebook conversation this morning about what constitutes a brownie.

It started when I found this recipe last night for fudge made with BLACK BEANS. That got a discussion going and I found out there's a whole underground world that includes many a recipe for brownies made with black beans. This recipe came highly recommended via Twitter on that front.

And, honestly, I might try both these recipes. Though, as it stands today, my fave brownie recipe is the one with zucchini in it.

So, are these recipes abominations? I know my friend Megan Stuke wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole. But I might...

What do you think constitutes a "brownie" or "fudge"?

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Buy?! I’ll make you an ornament wreath!

Honestly, this holiday ornament wreath was much easier to make than it appears.

Honestly, this holiday ornament wreath was much easier to make than it appears. by Mike Yoder

I have never been a crafty person. And by crafty, I mean in the Etsy sense, not the Tyrion Lannister sense.

Sure, I can sew, but it's never more than to fix a missing button. I don't paint, unless you count basic walls and trim. And whenever my son asks me to draw for him, the requested animal/shape/choo-choo train comes out looking like it has been forged by a Mack truck.

No, my "art" is most definitely in my writing (I hope). Though if you ever asked me to handwrite anything you'll wonder both how I escaped being drafted into medical school based on scrawl alone and how I finished school at all writing test papers by hand.

And yet, I do like the idea of being crafty. My mother is quite the crafter, though as a college professor, she barely has time to sit down at her pottery wheel (yes, she has one). When she does have time, she likes to paint, stamp, decoupage, sew and, yes, do pottery. She even had a loom in the ’80s. Cool, huh? She's also the first to admit that I have NONE of her skill despite my genes and my love of Pinterest.

So, she probably was surprised when I messaged her ahead of Thanksgiving, asking if she might be able to bring her glue gun with her while visiting for the holiday. I planned to make "the wreath" I told her.

"The wreath" is a project I'd had my eye on since last year. I'd seen on some site or another a picture of a holiday wreath made out of glass ball ornaments. It was unusual, cool, and if I wanted to buy one on Etsy, expensive as all get out. But with a simple search, I was able to find several different sets of directions on how to make my own out of shatter-proof ornaments. So, after the holidays last year, I bought some discount ornaments, with plans on making the wreath.

It never happened.

Problem No. 1: I couldn't decide on which method to use. You can make it with a foam wreath, string it on a bent hanger or cord of wire, or you could just buy an evergreen wreath and attach the ornaments to that. All the methods looked good, but they also yielded different types of wreaths. You could have a thin one made of wire (bent hanger or otherwise), you could have a slightly bigger one made with a foam wreath, or you could have a very "full" looking one by using the evergreen wreath method.

Problem No. 2: I was stuck with the hanger/cord method because I do not own a glue gun and I didn't want to buy one because, as I've said before, I'm not crafty at all. It would be a waste of money. I could've picked up a cheap one, I suppose, but I'm sure if that thing exploded and oozed hot glue all over me, I'd never attempt to craft again.

Problem No. 3: If I was going to attempt this wreath, I wanted it to look how it did in my brain. Which was full and big, gosh darn it. So, basically, I wanted to do something I couldn't do with a cord of wire or a hanger from the dry-cleaners.

So, I stowed the ornaments in the back of my guest closet and forgot about them ... until, I saw a cheap ornament wreath at Target in Novemeber. It was shiny and pretty, and exactly what I wanted, yet not at all. It was like one everyone could have. I didn't want that, I wanted the one I pictured in my head.

As I stood there, three feet from that pretty, easily obtainable wreath, I Googled the project I'd tossed aside last year. That search came up with this post, which featured the closest thing I could find to the wreath in my head.

Weeks later, when my mom arrived with her glue gun, we headed out to Michael's to look at more parts and pieces. We'd initially changed our minds and thought about using a foam wreath as the structure, but I still had that pretty wreath in my head, and decided in the end to go with an evergreen wreath as the base (bonus: the 18-inch evergreen was only $3.99, half of what a foam wreath would've cost). We bought some silver spray paint, too, and that night, I put on my husband's barbecue apron and stood in our garage, spray-painting the wreath on top of some flattened diaper boxes.

I let it air out for a day, and then, on Sunday morning, literally two hours before my parents had to leave for the airport, my mom and I warmed up the glue gun. At first, it was helpful to have two of us working on it — one to place glue on the ornaments and one to hold the glued ornament flush to the wreath — as we went around the outside edge with large ornaments. By the time we started around the inside (following the directions in this post), I was working alone, no help needed. My mom backed away to finish packing — the training wheels had officially come off.

In about an hour, I had a big, totally unique wreath exactly like I'd pictured in my head last year. It is fat, colorful and shiny and exactly what I wanted.

One project does not a crafter make, it's true. But this single project sure went a long way toward convincing me that I might have a crafty bone in my body after all. A bone that is absolutely terrified to actually hang my pretty ornament wreath for fear it might shatter like a pearl necklace. So, rather than hanging it in my dining room window as planned, I have it sitting sentry on my dining room table as a sort of holiday centerpiece.

And I kind of like it like that — just sitting there as a reminder of spending time with my mom, doing something she likes to do. Maybe next time I see her, we'll try another craft. Of course, I'm not going to start saving up for my own pottery wheel anytime soon, but at least I now own a (hand-me-down) glue gun.

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Holiday shopping this weekend? A couple of good handmade sales

If you haven't picked up all your gifts yet (or haven't started), you've got two good chances at getting handmade, local and indie items this weekend.

The first, as you can see above, is the Lola Giant sale, a two-day market featuring more than 25 local, handmade artists. The sale is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Van Go Mobile Arts, 715 N.J.

Another place to find local handmade gifts is the annual Holiday Market put on by the Lawrence Farmers' Market. The Holiday Market runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Lawrence Holiday Inn, 200 McDonald Drive. Regular farmers' market vendors and more will be there, selling foods, crafts, jewelry, personal care items and more.

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Percolator plans to tell developers, “Please don’t take our sunshine away.”

If you read today's Town Talk by Chad Lawhorn, you know that next week the City Commission will hear discussion about whether a six-story hotel/apartment building should be allowed to be built the southeast corner of the intersection of Ninth and New Hampshire.

Among those concerned parties planning on being there at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall (Sixth and Massachusetts streets) are the artists and arts lovers associated with the Lawrence Percolator. The arts incubator's entrance is situated in the alleyway behind the vacant lot where the proposed project would be built.

Thus, the Percolator is hosting a poster-making workshop ahead of the meeting so friends of the arts incubator, the neighboring Social Service League and the homes that would be left in the shadow can make a simple request: "Please don't take our sunshine away." The workshop is from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Percolator, 913 R.I.

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Cookie sale aims to help fund Lawrence Arts Center Preschool

Taylor McCarthy, 4, left, and Estelle Bass, 4, work on the cookie line with residents at Meadowlark Estates to decorate Christmas cookies that will be sold as a fundraiser for the Lawrence Arts Center Preschool.

Taylor McCarthy, 4, left, and Estelle Bass, 4, work on the cookie line with residents at Meadowlark Estates to decorate Christmas cookies that will be sold as a fundraiser for the Lawrence Arts Center Preschool. by Kevin Anderson

Kids and cookies go together like Santa and his reindeer. And for some Lawrence kids, cookies are just what they need to help bring holiday cheer to their preschool.

The Lawrence Arts Center Preschool Cookie Sale begins at 9 a.m. Saturday as a fundraiser for the award-winning preschool, which teaches arts-based education. Cookies will be sold for $6 per pound and will be on sale within LAC's preschool classrooms at 940 N.H. until only crumbs are left says Linda Reimond, preschool director. Limited bagels and barbecue will also be served to those cookie shopping during breakfast and lunch.

In addition, individual cookies will be sold at the Gingerbread House Festival and Viewing beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Carnegie Building, 200 W. Ninth St.

The cookies are a combination of treats made by the kids, contributed by their families or donated and then decorated (both Munchers Bakery and Great Harvest Bread Co. both contributed undecorated cookies).

On Wednesday afternoon, preschool kids and their parents visited Meadowlark Estates in West Lawrence and decorated cookies with elderly residents. Reimond says about 10 dozen cookies were prepared by the kids and Meadowlark residents.

"I love the fact that there were grandparent-age (folks), and some of the moms were there, and then the kids. That was what was so special to me, that they were going to do it together," Reimond says before running through this year's treats. "You won't even believe all the cookies that will be here. There will be some decorated cookies, some holiday cookies, and one of the preschool classes made dog biscuits. So we can even have cookies for your pet."

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A concert with all that Jazz: KPR presents “A Big Band Christmas”

UPDATE: Phil Wilke of KPR notified Lawrence.com that Kevin Mahogany has been injured and cannot travel to Saturday's concert. Replacing him will be Kansas City jazz singer Ron Gutierrez. The concert will go on as planned.

Jazz lovers will get an early Christmas present again this year from Kansas Public Radio.

KPR presents "A Big Band Christmas" at 8 p.m. Dec. 10 at Liberty Hall, 644 Mass. It is the third annual jazz concert put on by KPR, and will feature vocalist Kevin Mahogany this year along with the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra.

Mahogany is a Baker University grad and Kansas City native who has received praise from "Newsweek," "The New Yorker" and "The L.A. Times," among others.

"We wanted to make this concert a holiday tradition," says Janet Campbell, KPR's general manager. "This is our third year and we've had great listener and community support. The addition of Kevin to the concert will make it a special event for everyone who attends."

Tickets are $15.50 and available at the Liberty Hall box office or on ticketmaster.com.

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Keeping a lid on the party (an ode to Pinterest)

As a working mom, a lot of the time I'm pretty horrible at following through. I will get all excited about something and then not have enough time/energy/remaining braincells to actually do it.

I could give you examples, but honestly they're endless, just ask my friends and family. Anyway, this acquired trait is most definitely on display with the number of websites I join and then abandon. Google+, Goodreads, Red Lemonade, Tumblr ... the list goes on and on.

But, every now and again, I will find a site that I use every day. Twitter and DailyMile have become staples for me. They're interesting and more than that, they're useful, which means they get gold stars from working mommy me.

But my absolute new favorite is Pinterest. If you aren't familiar, it's a site where you can create "pin boards" of things you like on the web. Your ideas are organized, stay in one place so you can find them again, and others on the site can follow your boards and get ideas from you. And, of course, you can get ideas from them and their friends/followers.

Of course, I'm all about ideas from others because of the previously mentioned lack of time/energy/remaining braincells I have during most of my non-working life. Therefore, I've become an addict for Pinterest — checking it each night before I go to bed and repinning new ideas until my eyes glaze over and I think my watch is lying to me about how late it is.

One of the ideas I found that I thought was genius was this pin that showed up in my feed. It's an idea for a get together, where instead of having a drink bar, you pre-mix cocktails, pour them into mason jars, seal them and set them on ice. That way, the drinks are done, there aren't any spills and it makes for a pretty presentation, too. (Oh, and it's eco-friendly and cheap — double score!)

I absolutely loved that idea, but being the aforementioned working mom, I also have no delusions about how often I'd actually have enough people over to use such an ingenious idea. I.E. — once in a very blue moon, after the kiddo's bed time when the pretty presentation would be wasted.

So, when I realized we'd need drinks to go with the snacks I'd set out for my son's third birthday party this weekend, I knew exactly what I wanted to try. I grabbed the biggest bowl I had, ice and mason jars and set out not cocktails but apple cider and lemonade, as you see above.

The set up worked great, was fun for the kids and the adults and made for really easy clean up. I'll definitely do it again, and recommend it for any holiday parties you might have coming up (the kind where mason jars aren't too low-brow, of course).

As for the birthday boy, he enjoyed some apple cider from his cup, and got to have a chocolate cupcake. Though, he had to wait through the party for the cupcake (you can see him mooning over the cupcake pre-party below).

Don't worry, he ate the whole thing after opening his presents. See, I do follow through on the important things.

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Save some of that Black Friday cash for two specialty markets

Trying on a hat, Alison Roepe, Lawrence, shops on Black Friday at the Fair Trade Holiday Market at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, sponsored by the Lawrence Fair Trade Coalition. Shoppers found items at the market from all over the world.

Trying on a hat, Alison Roepe, Lawrence, shops on Black Friday at the Fair Trade Holiday Market at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, sponsored by the Lawrence Fair Trade Coalition. Shoppers found items at the market from all over the world. by Richard Gwin

If you plan on avoiding the big box stores like the plague on Black Friday, may we suggest instead checking out two Lawrence originals for gifts?

Each year, the Bizarre Bazaar and The Free Trade Holiday Market open their doors after Thanksgiving to shoppers looking to buy a locally made gift or something precious created by an artist in need half a world away.

The Bizarre Bazaar will be open as part of Final Fridays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., then on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. The annual event features work by dozens of local artists selling everything from handbags to jewelry to dog sweaters.

The Fair Trade Holiday Market runs from Friday to Dec. 3 at the Ecumenical Christian Ministries Building, 1204 Oread Ave. The market features unique gifts from around the world, including jewelry, bags, textiles, home goods and more. The hours are: Nov. 25-27, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Nov. 28-Dec. 1, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Dec. 2, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Dec. 3, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Show your support for the arts and young artists at Van Go’s “Adornment”

Winona Boado, 18, an apprentice artist at Van Go Mobile Arts Inc., paints some handmade wooden trees on Monday that will be in the annual Adornment Holiday Sale, Show and Party Saturday at 715 N.J. The sale, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., will feature items made by the young artists who have been receiving job training at Van Go.

Winona Boado, 18, an apprentice artist at Van Go Mobile Arts Inc., paints some handmade wooden trees on Monday that will be in the annual Adornment Holiday Sale, Show and Party Saturday at 715 N.J. The sale, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., will feature items made by the young artists who have been receiving job training at Van Go. by Mike Yoder

If you think someone on your holiday gift list would love the idea of helping out a young artist while receiving something beautiful, look no further than Van Go's holiday show: "Adornment."

The show and fundraiser will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Van Go Mobile Arts' home base: 715 N.J. Prices start at just $2 and include everything from jewelry to hand-built signs to glass charms. Each item was created by one of 25 teens, each of whom have been learning art skills during the fall session at Van Go, which strives "to improve the lives of high-needs youth using art as the vehicle for self-expression, self-confidence and hope for the future."

"These art objects have personal stories and heart and soul behind them that commercial holiday shopping venues can't offer," says Lynne Green, Van Go's executive director. "Shopping at Adornment is a way to buy locally while supporting your community."

Can't make it? Van Go's gallery shop will be open 1 to 5 p.m. every day until Dec. 23.

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Are you a writer? The Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award deadline is Dec. 16

Like to write? How'd you like $500 for your words?

The Lawrence Arts Center and the Raven Book Store are calling for submissions to the 2012 Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award. The award is given to one poet and one fiction writer, and each winner receives $500.

To be eligible:

• Writer of poetry or fiction

• Writers currently living in Douglas County and who have lived here for one year prior to submission of materials

• 21 years old or older

• Writers who have published a book-length volume of poetry or fiction are not eligible. (Self-published works are exempted.)

• Previous winners not eligible

The application deadline for submissions is December 16. All manuscripts should be submitted electronically, via email. Information about submission guidelines can be found on the Lawrence Arts Center website, http://www.lawrenceartscenter.org/Storypages/2011/Langston-Hughes-Award.html

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Junk food logic: Congress makes pizza a vegetable, what to do?

Whole Foods' Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Pesto Pizzas.

Whole Foods' Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Pesto Pizzas.

I'm hoping most of you had the same reaction as I did when news came earlier this week that Congress had proposed to make pizza a vegetable within the confines of the school lunch program:

"Oh, that makes sense."

Not that I think it's right. And not that I believe pizza, or more accurately the tomato paste in the pizza sauce, is truly a vegetable. I think that's a bunch of junk. No, it was that I wasn't surprised in the least.

Why should we be surprised? Schools have to go through loopholes to get fresh, organic, local vegetables into their school kitchens. As a corollary to how hard local food leaders like Nancy O'Connor, Rick Martin, Linda Cottin and others have worked to get school gardens up and running and feeding children in Lawrence, it just makes sense that all of a sudden the bar for our children's food would be set lower. I mean, we are fat and getting fatter all the time. Why not keep our children — our future — in step?

Yes, pizza's sudden status as a vegetable is upsetting, stupid and disheartening. And though disgusted Americans can ship their kids off to school with lunch pails in hand, that might not keep children from eating crap. We can't control what children put in their mouths within school walls. French fries and pizza are just about as attractive to children as being just like everyone else. And if everyone else is eating pizza, it's not hard to imagine an allowance spent on "vegetables" and a sack lunch rotting in the trash.

So, what's a parent to do? Control what your child eats at home. Offer him or her fruits and vegetables at breakfast and dinner. Don't buy the unhealthy things he or she leans on for after-school snacks. Buy apples. Buy pears. Buy baby carrots. Stand your ground.

And if your children want pizza? Make them pizza.

Pizza isn't a vegetable, but it isn't a four-letter word either. Not so long as you lead by example. Make a pizza covered in vegetables. Serve it with a salad. And ask your kids if they want to help in the kitchen — let them learn the joy of making something for themselves.

For a few ideas on pizzas containing actual vegetables, try these:

Romesco Pizza With Caramelized Onions & Squash

Whole Grain Mini Pizzas

Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Pesto Pizzas (in the pic at the top of this blog)

Roasted Apple, Butternut Squash, and Caramelized Onion Pizza (my family's personal fave)

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KU music students to perform works written by KU professors, other composers

Love music? Love it even more if it's free? You'll want to be at Swarthout Recital Hall in Kansas University's Murphy Hall at 7:30 Friday night.

That's when the KU student musicians will perform original compositions from the university staff as well as American composer George Crumb. The event, called the "Helianthus Contemporary Ensemble Fall Concert," is free and open to the public and will include:

  • "Classical Suite," by James Barnes
  • "The Twelve Kisses," by Forrest Pierce
  • "An Idyll for the Misbegotten," by George Crumb
  • "Transparencies," by Kip Haaheim
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The bird and my dad’s word: Giving thanks for precision

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by Robert Linton

If you got your paper this morning or checked Lawrence.com yesterday (or even today), you may have seen that we revamped our Thanksgiving Survival Guide that debuted last year. Basically, our guide is meant to be a handy "Cliff's Notes" to get you through the trials and tribulations of holding Thanksgiving.

Now, what you don't know is where that idea came from. Not from any editorial meeting or reader call asking for help. No, it came from an email I typically get each year a few weeks before Thanksgiving. An email that contains not only a page-long grocery list, but a minute-by-minute account of just how the holiday should go down — starting with the fact that I need to defrost the turkey starting this Sunday.

I don't have a Thanksgiving fairy godmother, and I haven't signed up for some reminder service or anything like that. No, this email comes from the real king of Thanksgiving:

My dad.

My dad isn't a chef, though he probably could've made a lot of money off his cooking prowess. (I'm a baker at heart — I do not claim his talents.) In fact, he's trained as an engineer and that sort of anal-retentive mind goes perfectly with the dance known as "getting Thanksgiving dinner on the table on time."

His list and timing are precise, right up to the brands of food I need to buy ahead of time. For example:

— Pepperidge Farm Herb Bread stuffing (not cubed)

— 1 can Le Sueur Peas

— 10 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (not really a brand, but you get the point I'm making here).

My job is to buy everything ahead of time (yes, he pays me back), put the turkey out to defrost and then just get out of the way. Well, and I generally make rolls from scratch, but I tend to do that a day or two ahead.

I'm sure these sorts of marching orders might make others cringe or demand that they get to do it themselves. But it's really not a bad deal when you think about it — I get to have Thanksgiving in my own home and I don't have to do anything but set it up. Plus, I love watching my dad cook — as I said earlier, he's really talented, and I learn just by seeing what he does. Honestly, I wouldn't have Thanksgiving any other way.

How does your family do Thanksgiving?

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How much time do you spend preparing meals?

Wendy Green, assistant manager of food service at West Junior High School, holds a tray of vegetables that were picked from the school's garden. Cafeteria staff members will chop them up and put them on the food bar.

Wendy Green, assistant manager of food service at West Junior High School, holds a tray of vegetables that were picked from the school's garden. Cafeteria staff members will chop them up and put them on the food bar. by Kevin Anderson

The good folks over at the USDA have put together a report on how much time Americans spend on food. And the numbers are surprising — to me, at least.

I feel like half my life is spent in the kitchen — washing, chopping, whisking and cleaning —yet according to the Economic Research Service report, Americans 18 and over spend 33 minutes in food preparation on an average day, including cleanup. Women spent more time (47 minutes) than men (18 minutes) on food prep while college-age adults spent considerably less time (15 minutes) than senior citizens (42) minutes on meal prep.

How much time do you spend prepping and cleaning up meals?

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