Buy Local: Shopping at the Farmers Market

Summer has finally arrived! And, Orange County has fifteen different farmers markets for you to explore.  Shopping at the farmers market is one sure way to buy fresh locally-grown and in-season produce.  Take a look at the following tips for making the best of your local farmers market.

  •  Dress appropriately – When headed to your local farmers market, dress comfortably and travel light. Check the weather report before you leave home and dress accordingly. The farmers market will be open come rain or come shine. A hooded jacket is better for a rainy day than trying to maneuver through the crowds with an umbrella and all your purchases. Wear clothes with lots of pockets; and on sunny days, wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Know the season – Don’t go to the farmers market in July expecting to find pumpkins. Do not expect uniform size in the produce selections either. Sizing is a supermarket tactic, but it is not the way things grow. 
  • Be bold and try something new -  You will find heirloom varieties that you may not have tasted before. Farmers can also tell you what they will be bringing to future markets as the season progresses. Be prepared by making a shopping list, but also allow for spontaneity.
  • Go early or go late – If you arrive early, the market will be less crowded and availability will be good. On the other hand, you may find bargains and reduced prices at the end of the market day. Most farmers do not want to take their goods back home.
  • How will you pay?   Markets are ready to take senior coupons, WIC coupons, and many have an EBT machine for accepting SNAP, but, bringing cash is your best bet. Carry small bills and change in a pocket-size change purse. Some vendors are equipped and ready to take credit cards, but cash is ideal. Leave your larger purse at home or in your trunk.
  • Tour the entire market first – Stroll around and check out what is available and the prices. Most prices are uniform, but the varieties and quality may not be as consistent. Decide which vendor you will purchase from.
  • Take your own bags and containers – Berries get crushed, so take a ridged container or basket. If you plan to buy fresh-cut flowers, they should be placed in water for the trip home. Although some farmers’ market vendors have bags, very few have boxes. It is easier if you bring your own containers and reusable bags with handles. Make sure that they are clean. You are contributing to the most basic recycling cause by using your own cloth bags.
  • Consider a small cart or cooler on wheels – Even small bags can get mighty heavy as you walk through the Farmers Market. Places to sit and rest may be limited. Place a cooler or two in the car. Pack it with some ice or cold-packs to keep things at peak freshness. Many types of produce like melons, corn, apples, will not need immediate cooling. If you use a cart, be considerate of other shoppers. There are lots open-toed shoes out there!
  • Do not over buy – Eat it while it is fresh and return next week for more. Do some mental meal planning, even if you do not write it down, and don’t buy more than you can eat in a week.

On Thursday I’ll share what summer produce you can expect to find at the markets and what the 2014 criteria is for the Senior Nutrition Farmers Market Coupons, including where you can get them.

Til next time, enjoy the family!  Stefanie

Source – University of Illinois Extension

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Round and Round and Round in the Circle Game

Round and Round and Round in the Circle Game

You’ve all heard that parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. It’s also been said that parents are their children’s “first book” – parents’ faces are “read” by children to understand how they are doing. When a one year old child pushes his cheerios off the high chair; when a four year old scribbles their first name on a paper; when an eight year old forgets their math homework; and your fifteen year old forgets to look at the clock and misses their curfew, they all look to their parents faces and actions to “read” how they did and predict what comes next.

As their first teachers, parents and caregivers are also children’s most important role models. It all starts with adults modeling appropriate and expected behaviors, and then reinforcing these gently and consistently.  It all circles round to ending with this modeling with respect to your own behavior: Set a good example; Speak and act only in the way you expect your children to act. But you know all this already, don’t you?

Here’s a poem that was given to me in the hospital when my son was born. I think it speaks to the power of modeling right behavior better than my own words could possibly convey!

Children Learn What They Live










Well, this post concludes this brief series on discipline. If you have enjoyed these posts and/or they have left you with more questions than answers, please join us at one of CCE’s “Discipline is NOT a Dirty Word” series this fall. Call us at 845 344-1234 for a program flyer, or visit us on the web at Until next time, enjoy the family! D

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So… What do we mean by natural and logical consequences?

So… What do we mean by natural and logical consequences?

Realistic limits and consequences help children understand the expectations of the adults in their world. Even though they may argue the point with you, limits and consequences help children feel safe by knowing what to do and what may happen when rules are broken.  Here are the simple ingredients to help with this tool:

  • Decide on a few important limits and stick to them
  • Let your children know these limits and make sure they are understood
  • Gently follow through if the rules are broken
  • Use consequences they can learn from

When we share our expectations for behavior and follow through using gentle, natural consequences to help children understand where they “went wrong”, we teach correct behaviors in a way that reinforces “right actions”. This learning focuses on helping them do right instead of punishing them for doing wrong. It’s all in the approach.  Instead of:

  • You didn’t clean up the dishes like I asked; your punished.
  • Your room is a mess; you can’t go.
  • You hit your brother; go to your room right now!

Try positive guidance:

  • After you clean up the dishes we can…
  • If you need help figuring out where to start in your room, why not try…
  • What are words you could have used to show your anger?

If these don’t work and you need to use consequences, they might sound like this:

  • I expect the dishes to be cleaned before you go to bed tonight.  I’ll be back to check at 8 o’clock.
  • I know you wanted to go to the party, but the agreement was your room would be cleaned first.  Sorry but you can’t go this time.
  • Your brother is crying because his arm hurts where you hit him. Get a cold pack and hold it on his arm till he tells you it feels better.

Yes, it takes a little longer to use teaching and guiding then punishment, but over time children will GET IT! They will learn that you mean what you say, and that life will be easier for them if they listen the first time – “Okay Mom, I’m going to do the dishes right now.  Then maybe there will be time for us to play a game?“ How lovely! Until next time, enjoy the family! Denyse

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Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say…

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say…

… And do what you say you are going to do. Ouch, that’s a tough one.  If you’re anything like me, you all know how easy it is to threaten but not follow through. Why is this such a parental pitfall? If you were here I know you’d say:

  • I don’t like to be the mean one
  • I want to see my kids having fun
  • I’m not around them enough, and don’t want our time together to be difficult
  • I want them to like me
  • I overreacted
  • It’s not the team’s fault that he didn’t clean up his bedroom

And on and on… Lots of reasons that are deeply emotional…

But… just like we know the many reasons behind why we don’t follow through with our stated limits, we also know the message that the kids take away:

  • I guess they don’t really mean what they say
  • If I push hard enough I can still get my way
  • I am the one who makes the decisions in this family

By setting limits that are both understandable and reasonable, and then, gently following through with consequences that are both natural and logical, kids get the message that adults are in control and will keep them safe.   Everybody feels better when parents act like adults and children can remain children. Don’t you?

More specifics to come on HOW we can do this. Until then, Enjoy the family! D

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Working with Your Child (Instead of Against Them)

Working with Your Child (Instead of Against Them)

One of my favorite books is a children’s book called the Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss.  It’s a simple story, about a little boy who plants a carrot seed and tends it with great care, despite the discouraging remarks of his parents and big brother. In the end the boy is rewarded with a great BIG carrot, “just as he knew he would”. It’s a favorite because its simple story reveals the power of positive thought over unlikely odds.

Children actually have very little power and rely on the adults in their lives to take care of them in everyday ways like these:

“I’m hungry. Can we make some lunch”?

“I want to play outside. May we go to the park?”

“I want to learn things. Will you help me plant a carrot?”

Because attention is what all children crave from their parents and others who love them, they will seek it through “good” or “bad” behaviors.  When children get positive attention and feel supported by their parents and caregivers they are most likely to behave well, without continued reminders. Kids who get this message will act in ways that please their parents, rather than needing to act out in order to get any attention at all. Every day we can look for simple ways to give children attention about what they are doing “right” and reinforce these positive behaviors by saying things like…

“Of course you must be hungry – what a long walk we took.  What shall we have for lunch that will be easy, taste good, and help us rebuild our energy?”

“The park is so much fun. We won’t have time today, but we should be able to go tomorrow!”

“Carrots are hard to grow because they have teeny tiny seeds and take a long time to grow. How about if we try radishes?”

PS  Do try planting radishes (instead of carrots) this week. The seeds are big and they germinate easily within a week (or so) giving children the message that they did something right!

Until next time, enjoy the family! Denyse

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Giving Choices We All Can Live With

Giving Choices We All Can Live With

We all know that choice is good, and helps people to feel that they have some power and control over their lives. All ages of children like to make choices:

“Do you want to wear your red or blue pajamas to bed?”

“Do you want to invite Jorge or Jen to your party?”

“Do you want to play soccer or tennis this semester?”

“Do you want to come home alone at ten or have a friend stay over?”

Of course, we also know that too much choice can get us into trouble. Children usually take us seriously when we offer them a choice, so we need to be really careful to offer choices that we really mean and can follow through with. Because we are all so busy, we may give choices when we don’t really mean to, like this:

“What do you want for dinner?”

Limit choices to those you can also live with. What if your kids say “surf and turf” when you were thinking “mac and cheese”? Beware of giving kids choices when you can’t or don’t want to grant them.  Just think about which choices you can live with, and construct your question with these specifics in mind.

“Time to go to bed now, okay?”

Don’t make something a question when it is not.  Uh oh… Your little sweetie may think she now has the right to stay up way past her bedtime! Without meaning to we may unwittingly add question marks to the end of sentences, and overuse the word “okay”.  A clear declarative sentence like: “we don’t hit other children” can turn the “not to hit” command into a choice of the child’s.

Because carefully thought out choices are indeed a good way for children to learn, do give choices as much as possible, but also limit these choices to the reasonable. And when there isn’t to be a choice – because of safety, or belief, or lack of time or money, that is okay too. Just let it be known that the request was heard, and that there will always be another choice tomorrow –  cheerios or corn flakes?

Until next time, Enjoy the family! D

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A Little (environmental) Change Goes a Long Way

A Little (environmental) Change Goes a Long Way

It amazes me how often I apply this next discipline “tool” to my own life –  change the environment instead of the behavior.  It is a simple idea, yet one that often gets initial resistance from adults, perhaps because it implies that they need to change instead of the child. Well, yes  – they are being asked to change something; but no – the child will also behave differently as a result of this change. The bottom line is that with a minor amount of planning, you can create an environment where children are most likely (no guarantees, of course) to act in the way you hope for.

Just look at this cartoon;  what’s wrong with this picture?!



I named this the Accident Waiting to Happen cartoon because trouble is looming… objects are being broken, someone is going to get hurt, relationships may end!

With a little thought about environmental change, all can be averted:

Breakable objects are placed up high or in a cabinet;

No pets are allowed in the living room/ play area;

Active play is encouraged outside, in the yard;

Dad puts down his paper to play with the baby; and

Mother leaves the room for a much needed break.

To apply this “tool”, look for places in your home where a small change will help your child do things for themselves and act their best! Perhaps it is placing a sturdy box or stepping stool by the sink so that a young child can wash their hands or get their own drink of water? Place a box by the door to hold all shoes and backpacks? Maybe you’ll devote a kitchen cupboard to holding plastic ware, so that your pre-schooler may safely play in the kitchen while you cook?  Or you might decide to replace the “no, no, no” cookie jar with a bowl of ready to eat, fresh summer fruit!

Until next time, experiment with tool #4 and, enjoy the family! Denyse

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Helping Children Feel Lovable and Capable

I remember when, as a new teacher, I first met Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner at Cornell University. One of the “father’s” of early childhood education and an originator of the Head Start Program, Dr. B. told us that what all children need in order to thrive, as much as they need food and clothing and shelter, is at least one adult who is “irrationally attached” or “head over heals” crazy about that child, and who let’s the child know this every day. In other words, children need to learn that they are loved and believe in their own capabilities in order to give love and act responsibly. Now, I have learned over the years that many, many parents love their children to pieces, and also believe that the best way to motivate them is by pointing out their deficiencies instead of their strengths. They believe children will be motivated to do better by making them feel worse. In fact, making children feel “less than” only makes them act “less than.” What children need from adults is again very simple – to hear things every day that help them know they are lovable and capable. To learn and practice Tool #2 – Protect your children’s feelings that they are lovable and capable, try some of these tips:

  • Catch them doing something right. “Thanks for playing so nicely with your brother. You are sweet to share your toys with him.”
  • Praise them before they have a chance to say no. “Thanks for taking the time to clean your room before you go out with your friends.”
  • Reflect their feelings using their own words. “You are upset because your friend Julie didn’t invite you to her party. You feel left out, huh?”
  • Let children know that some things are hard for adults too. “I also have a hard time choosing between doing something fun and doing something I have to do. Life’s choices can be tough some times.“
  • When they are in earshot, say positive things to others about your children’s responsible behaviors. “It was nice to see how Erin helped his friend with the math homework. I like the way he gives back to others.”
  • Avoid correcting children in front of their peers.  “I didn’t want to say this in front of Jenny, but I think there may have been more to the story.”
  • If you need to correct children or enforce consequences, be loving and firm. “I know that you really want to go to the water park with your friends, but there isn’t enough adult supervision. It just isn’t safe enough and you won’t be able to go this time”.

BONUS QUESTION?  How would you add in tool #1 to this answer? That’s right, “You may go to the water park when there is more supervision.” Then, better start packing  your bathing suits, mom and dad…

Until next time, enjoy the family! Denyse


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Seven Simple Tools to Make Discipline (at least a little) Easier

Seven Simple Tools to Make Discipline (at least a little) Easier

For most of us, the word discipline conveys harsh actions and unpleasant feelings. Both adults and kids want to avoid discipline, believing it to be something equated with PAIN. But, if we allow ourselves to think of discipline in another way – as teaching and guiding –  it takes on a whole other, and this time POSITIVE meaning.

Kids actually want to please their parents. By communicating expectations, guidelines and limits carefully, and following through gently and consistently as needed, children learn that their parents and caregivers mean business – they say what they mean and mean what they say.

A simple way to begin “saying what you mean” is to let your children know what they CAN do. Instead of the all favorite “NO”, let children learn about limits by focusing on the do’s instead of the don’ts. Nothing changes in your actual expectations for them, just in your expression of those expectations.  This “tool” sounds like this:

Instead of: “You can’t have a cookie until you finish your dinner”

Say: “You may have a cookie after you finish your dinner”

Instead of: “Don’t yell at your sister”

Say: “Use words with your sister so she can hear you”

Instead of: “You can’t stay out with your friends so late”

Say: “Thanks for being home by 10 tonight”

Instead of: “No, I can’t play with you because I have too much cleaning to do”

Say: “Help me with the cleaning and we will have time to play”

Simple, right? By focusing on what children CAN do, you will get the hoped for behavior with much less pain (at least, most of the time!) And, every once in a while, when you really need to use “NO” or “DON’T”, your child just might pay attention to the word and STOP and LISTEN to you. They may even say, “Okay Mom!”

Until next time (and tool #2), enjoy the family! D

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Rainbow Salad

Eating a Rainbow Recipes I promised some recipes that show how easy it is to eat A LOT of different types and colors of fruit and vegetables each day.  Here are two of Carley and Linda’s favorites to make with their kids!

Colorful Quesadillas Wash hands. In a small bowl mix 8 oz. fat free or low-fat cream cheese and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. Spread about 2 Tablespoons of the cheese mixture on a whole wheat tortilla.  Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of chopped bell peppers and 2 Tablespoons shredded cheese on one half of the tortilla. Add ¼ cup fresh washed spinach leaves or 2 Tablespoons frozen spinach that has been thawed and squeezed  to other side. Fold tortilla in half and heat on medium skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Makes 8 tortillas/4 servings. Optional: use a variety of colored peppers and/or other asst. chopped veggies.

Rainbow Salad Take a rainbow of vegetables, including: GREEN broccoli, ORANGE carrots, RUBY radishes, a VARIETY of colored peppers, YELLOW corn, RED onion, etc. etc. etc.  Scrub them completely then chop them carefully into little bitty pieces. Add chopped or sliced almonds and dried craisins to taste. Mix lightly with salt and pepper and your favorite vinaigrette dressing. YUM! Until next time, enjoy the family! D

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  • Blog Authors

    Denyse Altman Variano

    Denyse has had the pleasure of working with children and families since the birth of her first child. Currently responsible for the Family and Consumer Sciences program area at Cornell ... Read Full

    Stefanie Hubert

    Stefanie manages all nutrition programming at Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County. An avid cook and advocate for health and wellness at all levels, Stefanie enjoys ... Read Full
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