Santa and his Real Reindeer stopped by Peoples Bank in Waukee last weekend on December 13th. With attendance over 400, the event was a huge success.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is a story of a Christmas play put on by neighborhood kids who dance to jazz piano music and realize that, like many things, our modern concept of Christmas often misses the whole point. Over the course of the thirty-minute special, Charlie Brown tries to grasp the real meaning behind the over-commercialized version of Christmas that he sees in the world around him. He knows he should feel happy, but he doesn’t. His friend Lucy solemnly tells him that, even with all the toys, she never gets what she really wants for Christmas, which is “real estate.” His own dog, Snoopy, enters a Christmas lights and display contest in hopes of winning a cash prize.
Charlie is invited to direct the Christmas play, which threatens to become permanently derailed due to lack of focus by the actors until Charlie’s friend Linus walks to the center of the stage and, under a lone spotlight, recites Jesus’ birth story from the gospel of Luke. Then Charlie’s friends, who had made fun of him for choosing a real (albeit strikingly humble) Christmas tree, follow him outside and remake the sad little tree into a festive Christmas display.
It’s a story that appeals to many because of its sincerity and simplicity—we tap our toes along with the Vince Guaraldi jazz music, we root for Charlie as he picks the saddest-looking tree in the lot, and we smile as the kids show Charlie the newly-decorated tree and shout, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!”
Though the special has enjoyed success with television audiences for nearly five decades, some will be surprised to know that, during its premiere, the executives behind the project feared that it would be a flop. Charles Shulz, the creator of the Peanuts characters, butted heads with the producers of the show over some of the most important elements of the special. He insisted that the characters be voiced by children rather than adults, he refused to take out the reading from the Gospel of Luke, and he rejected the use of a laugh track. Because of this, the producers predicted that they had a disaster on their hands. However, due to time constraints and previous television promotion of the special, it aired, and producers were shocked at its immense popularity with both critics and viewers. It won an Emmy award and has been playing on televisions across America each December since 1965.
At the Festival of Trees and Wreaths, held at 6:30 tonight at the Waukee Public Library, visitors will get a chance to see trees and wreaths decorated by individuals, families, and businesses of the community. The library will become aglow with warmth during the lighting ceremony at 6:30, after which little ones will be able to enjoy story time amid the sparkling trees. The event features live music and refreshments, and all proceeds will benefit the Waukee Public Library Foundation. The Teen Advisory Board, which helps to provide activities for Waukee teens, will also be holding a silent auction during the evening.
From December 5th to the 19th, members of the community are able to vote for their favorite wreath or tree. Each vote costs $1, which supports the library’s ability to keep its shelves full of books, audio books, and movies. The winning trees and wreaths will be announced on December 19th.
Kristine Larson, director of the Waukee library, says, “This is a very important event for the Waukee community. It promotes community engagement and encourages citizens to come together to celebrate the holiday season.”
Larson emphasizes that community events like the library’s Festival help people to slow down together during this particular month: “Especially when things are hectic this time of year, it’s important to connect with your fellow community members to celebrate and enjoy the season and the great community of Waukee.”
At Waukee’s Winterfest at 6:00pm on Friday night in Triangle Park, the fun starts when the jolly old man himself lights the WinterFest holiday tree. The event will continue inside Waukee’s community center, where the kiddos can visit with Santa and everyone can enjoy hot chocolate and refreshments. Those who wish to linger in the park will be rewarded with a ride on an old-fashioned trolley to see some of Waukee’s beautifully decorated homes. WinterFest also features a toy drive to benefit those dealing with financial difficulties this holiday season.
So, if you’ve been in need of a December pick-me-up, look no further than these two wonderful and local holiday events. As you gather your loved ones around you and set out to meet new friends in your own community, you’ll be filled with the joy and gratitude of this beautiful season.
The Dallas County Shop with a Cop program, hosted by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Benevolent, is in its 19th year this season. The program consists of giving around 50 needy children from Dallas county the opportunity to shop for holiday gifts at Wal-Mart. Deputies and police officers escort the kids through the store to help them pick out items. There is also a second part of the program, in which business owners donate baskets of food and toys to families in Dallas County. For more information about this yearly program, including how you can nominate a family or child in need, visit the City of Waukee website. Nominations will be accepted for the Shop with a Cop program through November 28th and for food basket donations through December 12th.
Another local opportunity to give back is taking place during a staple holiday event in our community—Waukee Winterfest. The celebration, which will be on Friday, December 5th from 6:00-8:00pm, will begin at Triangle park for a lighting of the lights ceremony (with Santa!) and then continue with warm food and activities at the Waukee community center. And, to cap it all off, Waukee Parks and Recreation is holding a holiday toy drive at the event, inside the community center. The drive will collect new, unwrapped toys, household items, nonperishable foods, personal hygiene items, and monetary donations. The items will then be donated to the Waukee Area Christian Food Pantry (read our story about the WACFP here) .
Danae Edwards, of the Waukee Parks and Recreation Department, said that the toy drive, which is in its second year, “stemmed from our Park Board members. They really wanted to be able to give back to the community in a new way.” When asked about the importance of this toy drive for the residents of Waukee, Edwards said, “I’m hoping that our kids in our community will be happy and excited every time they place a toy, jar of peanut butter, or a $5 bill into our donation bucket and know that it might be going to help one of their friends, classmates or neighbors have a more exciting holiday season.”
Edwards also expressed hope that the toy drive will make an impact on those who will receive the gifts: “I’m sure this time of year can put added stress on parents who are trying to meet the basic needs of keeping their kids warm and bellies full plus trying to provide the latest, new toy on the market—but I hope that the parents and the children who receive our donations realize that our wonderful community is willing to help during this festive season.”
As you and your family are planning for the holidays, make sure to check out these local opportunities to spread the joy of giving. In so doing, you’ll be participating in those things that last far beyond the Christmas tree or the melting snow: compassion, generosity, and gratitude.
Unfortunately, for some Waukee families, these delicious scents are not as common as the stress of built-up bills and empty cupboards. This is where the Waukee Area Christian Food Pantry enters the picture, opening its welcoming doors twice a week to provide emergency food supplies and personal items to those in need. Local churches combined forces to make the pantry – an entity of Waukee Area Christian Services (WACS) – a reality in October of 2005.
WACS Director Melissa Stimple (pictured above) has been with the organization since its inception. After nine years, she’s still inspired every day by witnessing the difference the organization makes in people’s lives. “Every day is like the first one all over again,” Stimple said.
Food and personal items are donated to the food pantry through local churches, individuals and businesses. The products are then redistributed to individuals and families in need.
The pantry is available to those living within the Waukee School District and/or those recommended by one of the eight partner churches involved in WACS. “We serve all types of people, from seniors to everyday families to single mothers,” Stimple said.
New clients go through a brief screening process, fill out a short information form, and provide proof of residence and photo identification. A week’s worth of groceries is then dispensed upon approval, allowed once per calendar month. The groceries include enough items to prepare three meals per day.
To keep things as convenient as possible for its clients, appointments are not required and all goods and services are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Waukee Area Christian Services (WACS) did not mess around when they claimed the word “services” in their name. Its Free Clinic offers necessary services to all ages, including sports physicals, minor illness and injury care, diabetes testing and chronic disease management. Free Clinic hours are Mondays from 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM. Open since 2009, its mission is to serve the under-
Stimple mentioned that there is currently an opening for a Clinic Medical Director that needs to be filled by an interested MD, DO or Nurse Practitioner.
WACS has also created The Fruitful Vine Garden, a community garden that was first planted in 2010. This garden is not your typical backyard plot. Rows and rows of fruits and vegetables grow on the Westview Church grounds for the WACS to distribute through the pantry. Volunteers, including the Dallas County Master Gardeners, keep the plants in tip-top shape and additional hard-working hands are always welcome during its three weekly shifts.
“This is the garden’s fourth year, and so far we’ve harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, turnips, squash, green beans and beets, along with some other fresh produce,” Stimple said. “We’re looking forward to harvesting asparagus, blueberries and strawberries
The WACS also offers prayers for those who ask for them. Stimple said that clients have attested that this human-spiritual connection is a meaningful aspect of the organization, as well.
The pantry is now gearing up to prepare boxes of Thanksgiving meal ingredients for needy families. The boxes include items such as a full turkey or ham, stuffing, canned green beans, boxed or fresh potatoes, corn muffins and fruit.
For Christmas this year, WACS will be taking the reins from the Waukee Police Department and handling the gift donations that the police have traditionally handled for the past 20 years. “This year, we will be putting together Christmas gifts and food boxes for the families we serve,” Stimple said.
“If you would like to ‘adopt’ a family, or if you are a family in need, contact us,” Stimple said. “We’ll accept as many families as possible.”
While the pantry welcomes holiday-centric donations, Stimple said that basics, such as cereal, soup, canned goods and peanut butter, are needed year-round. These donations make a significant difference for the 100 families that use the Pantry every month. While the pantry recently installed large industrial refrigerators and freezers to store perishable items, Stimple does recommend calling ahead to make sure adequate space is available before donating items that require cold storage.
“Monetary donations are also always welcome,” Stimple recommended. “Such donations allow us to purchase gift cards and items that we need.”
Donations – especially baby and personal needs items – are always greatly appreciated. Simply drop off goods during the pantry’s normal hours (Mondays from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM and Thursdays from 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM), or make a donation at one of the partner churches (listed at waukeechristianservices.org) or local businesses, including Dahl’s, Fareway, Waukee City Hall and the Waukee Police Department.
Stimple said that while the services offered through the non-profit are made possible by generous volunteers and donors, more help is always needed. So give a little time, give goods, and/or lend a helping hand. Your contribution will help to make the upcoming holidays that much warmer for our Waukee neighbors this year.
1155 SE Boone Dr, Waukee, IA 50263
This sauce is commonly added to pastas and vegetable gratins and lends a creamy deliciousness to everything it touches. And yet, since it’s made with 2% milk, it doesn’t leave you feeling so full that you want to push your chair back from the table a few inches. Add some cheddar, and it becomes the perfect base for mac ‘n cheese. Spread it between layers of lasagna or toss it with cooked vegetables. Or try a croque monsieur, which is essentially a hot ham and cheese sandwich that is covered in cheesy béchamel and broiled until golden brown on top. These are the kinds of warm, delicious dishes that welcome you inside from the frigid outdoors.
The sauce starts with a roux, which is not as intimidating as it sounds and basically involves melting a hunk of butter in a saucepan and then stirring in a bit of flour and cooking the mixture for a minute or two in order to get rid of the raw flour taste. Then, you slowly add milk to the roux while stirring the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon. The sauce will simmer for about 10-15 minutes, during which time you must stir frequently. Standing over a pan of hot milk and swirling it back and forth is an unexpectedly effective way to release some of the tension of a busy afternoon. Once the sauce has thickened to a consistency of your liking, you’re done. It’s as simple as that.
While your family and friends will be impressed by your knowledge of French cooking terms like béchamel and roux, you’ll be happily pouring and mixing your way to one of the dozens of delicious applications of this humble sauce. And in making it, you’ll be helping to create a warm haven from the cold, right there in your kitchen.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two in order to get rid of the raw flour taste.
Slowly whisk in the milk in order to avoid creating lumps. Stir in the minced garlic.
Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until sauce has reached your desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper.
When using this sauce as a base for cheesy dishes, add the cheese at toward the end of the sauce’s simmering time. There’s no need to measure an exact amount of cheese; you’ll know how much to stir in based on how thick you want the sauce and how much of a presence you want the cheese to have in the dish.
The best way to reduce day-of holiday stress is to sit down and think through the details well ahead of the big day itself. Write out the guest list, the menu, and a schedule of the day’s activities. It may also be helpful to create a minute-by-minute schedule for food preparation so that you don’t sit down to dinner only to realize that the green bean casserole needs another 20 minutes to bake. Good Housekeeping has another brilliant idea: start collecting clean, lidded plastic containers that once held store-bought foods and takeout meals in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. That way, you can easily distribute the leftovers to guests without having to worry about your Tupperware disappearing for good.
Yes, turkey and mashed potatoes will naturally be expected, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t mix up the sides with a fresh recipe. If your family loves classic pumpkin pie, consider making Food & Wine’s recipe for Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Brownie Crust. Feeling a bit more adventurous? Try Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Maple Hickory Nuts from Epicurious in place of a more standard green salad. If your guests are contributing to the feast, give them a little more leeway by suggesting that they bring a unique dish to the Thanksgiving table.
I can’t remember where I first head this bit of sage advice—but it’s definitely worth sharing. Assembling the table ahead of time (either the morning of or the night before) is a great way to maintain your calm as you prepare for the big meal. You’ll have one more item checked off your to-do list, and your guests will admire the artful arrangement of the table before the feasting begins.
My sister has a great fondness for creating table name cards for special family get-togethers. If such a person is included in your Thanksgiving guest list, ask if they would be willing to contribute in this way. Another good way to create a memorable table-scape is to include old family photos. Guests will be able to reminisce as younger family members learn about the lives of their parents and grandparents. Want to add anther special touch to each place setting? Head over to the Bumblebee Linens website for a list of napkin-folding tutorials.
Being a great host or hostess often means juggling the last minute tasks with a smile as your friends and family members gather in the kitchen. You will probably encounter several offers to help from your guests, and if you’re like me, you might find it more difficult to think of tasks for them than to simply forge ahead unaided. However, with a little planning, you’ll be able to graciously accept help while keeping your thoughts in order. Set aside a few simple tasks that can wait until the guests arrive—like putting the desserts out on the sideboard and buttering the garlic bread just before it goes into the oven. Your guests will be able to help, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of some stress-reducing kitchen camaraderie. (I first encountered this tip in the Real Simple magazine, which also has a website full of helpful hosting advice.)
With all this extra Halloween time on your hands, you might be wondering what else you can do with your family when you aren’t trick-or-treating. Here are five Halloween activities that are perfect for the mini princesses and pirates in your life:
Curl up with a kid-friendly Halloween classic.
Check out the Reader’s Digest list of 9 Great Halloween Books for Kids, and then get reading! Or watch a kid-friendly Halloween special, like the Peanuts’ It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Parents will love revisiting this Charlie Brown special with its portrayal of American Halloween traditions and the sincerity of children.
Encourage your child’s generosity.
As mentioned in this article from WHO, the spirit of giving can be a part of Halloween fun. Cut down on the extra buckets of Halloween candy by having your kids select their favorite treats and then donating the rest to American troops. You can participate in a candy buyback like the one that will be hosted by Plaza Dental in West Des Moines, or you can donate your candy directly to Operation Gratitude. Either way, you can tell your little ones that they are sharing their ‘hard earned’ candy (at least in their eyes) with the men and women who protect our homeland.
Attend an outdoor Halloween festival.
Take advantage of the beautiful fall scenery and let your kids release some of their energy in the great outdoors as you enjoy activities at an event such as Family Halloween at Living History Farms. This event features horse-drawn wagon rides, storytellers, special Halloween displays, and trick-or-treating for kiddos 12 and under.
Participate in a Post-Candy Fun-Run.
Feeling jittery from a few too many fun-size candy bars? Get rid of some of that energy (and burn off the extra calories) by participating in the Halloween Hot Chocolate 5K and 5-Mile Race held at Principal Park in Des Moines on Sunday, November 2nd at 9:00am. Adult participants can choose to either run a 5K or a 5-Mile course, and kids can participate in a short fun-run starting at 10:00am. Upon finishing the run, each participant will be able to enjoy chocolate and a cup of hot chocolate. That is, if you haven’t already had your fill of chocolate for the weekend!
Such a recipe seems fitting for the cooler weather, as it combines two food items that seem synonymous with the word “cozy” (namely, pumpkin and oatmeal). It also produces a portable dessert perfect for a football game or a trip to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving.
I myself am a professed lover of all things pumpkin, a taste I developed growing up when my sister would make pumpkin bread each year for my father’s October birthday. To me, America’s recent fondness for this particular fall flavor seems more than reasonable. For all those who share my feelings, I have a pumpkin monster cookie recipe for you.
On the other hand, there are many people who are not in on this pumpkin craze. Take my husband, for example. He can’t understand why anyone would eat pumpkin for enjoyment. If this sounds like anyone in your life, or if you yourself are left scratching your head at the idea that pumpkin could be a desirable dessert, then I have a pumpkin monster cookie recipe for you, too.
The first recipe (“For Pumpkin Lovers”) is for those who wait all year for the fall season so that it will once again be socially acceptable to eat pumpkin once a week, if not daily. These cookies are little pillows of pumpkin oatmeal, chewy and chock-full of chocolate chips. If you like pumpkin, you will love how pumpkin-y these cookies are.
The second recipe (“For Pumpkin Skeptics”) is for people like my husband who need to ease their way into pumpkin desserts. It’s mostly made up of classic monster cookie ingredients (oatmeal, peanut butter, M&M’s), with a hint of pumpkin flavor. Those who can’t bring themselves to like pumpkin should give these cookies a try (my mother-in-law, who is definitely in the pumpkin skeptics camp, loved this recipe). They’re familiar enough, being more of a traditional monster cookie, and yet they carry an undertone of pumpkin that could spark a change of heart for some skeptics.
(Adapted from April McKinney)
Makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on how monster-big you make them
(Slightly Adapted from Steph’s Bite by Bite)
Makes about 28 cookies, depending on how monster-big you make them
We drove out to Brenton Arboretum last Sunday to enjoy the gorgeous day and do some walking while enjoying the fall colors. Scattered throughout the arboretum are comfortable chairs. We both wished we had brought our books to do some reading after our walk – the weather was perfect.
The beautiful trees prompted me to remember the big sugar maple in our next door neighbor’s yard when I was a kid. It was the perfect tree to read in, easy to climb with one particular substantial branch that was nearly horizontal and had adjacent branches in just the right places for back and foot rests. I read dozens and dozens of books, including “Treasure Island”, perched on that branch high in the tree.
Thinking of “Treasure Island”, I just finished “Under the Wide and Starry Sky,” Nancy Horan’s novel about the relationship between Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, and his American wife, Fannie Van de Grift Osbourne. Stevenson penned numerous novels, including “Treasure Island” and “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. This new book follows the couple from the time they meet until Stevenson’s death on the Pacific island of Samoa, where they lived for several years.