Home Insteading With Cooperative Extension (Week 40)

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4-H at Home 
Camaryn Byrum 4-H Agent 

Hot Chocolate Board

Are you a hot chocolate lover? Hot chocolate is one of my favorite beverages, especially during the cold winter months. Hot chocolate is a delicious treat for youth and adults alike. If you have a hot chocolate lover, like me, in your family, try out this hot chocolate board from Ree Drummond. This chocolatey platter can be displayed at a family gathering or gifted to a neighbor.

What You’ll Need:

  • A flat board or platter
  • Small bowls (to house a few of the ingredients)
  • A few favorite mugs (one for each person you’ll be serving)
  • Hot chocolate mix (store-bought or homemade)
  • Milk (to prepare your hot chocolate)
  • A selection of your favorite hot chocolate fixings and holiday treats (marshmallows, mini candy canes, rolled wafer cookies, coconut flakes, soft caramels, cookies, chocolate chips, whipped cream)
  • A slow cooker (optional—to keep the milk hot)


  • Place your “anchor item” on the board. This is the item that will serve as the centerpiece of your board. Your hot chocolate mix is a good anchor item. Set this item down first, and house it within one of your favorite mugs. You could also place a few wrapped candies (Hershey Kisses) alongside the mug.
  • Continue adding more “tidy” or well-contained items (like mini marshmallows).
  • If you’re feeling pretty certain about the final location of any other items, you can add them at this time (like rolled wafers or a bowl of soft caramels).
  • It’s time to throw caution to the wind and begin adding a few of those melty, messy items. Pile on items like chocolate bar pieces and mini candy canes.
  • Don’t forget a few items that mimic the look of snow (coconut flakes)!
  • Make room for the final load of marshmallows.
  • Don’t skimp on the cookies.
  • Fill in those last few blank spaces with ornaments or Christmas-themed trinkets.
  • ENJOY! Heat up the milk in the slow cooker and you’ll have piping-hot beverages ready in no time. Pour yourself a mug and top it off with all of the fancy fixings.
hot cocoa board

Family and Consumer Sciences at Home 

Easy New Year’s Resolution: Proper Portions

From: The Holiday Challenge 
Submitted by: Mary Morris, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent 

It is no secret that food portions around the holidays can get out of control. You may be feeling bad for eating too many sweets and huge plates of food. You can start the new year off right but working on portion sizes, proper portion sizes can go a long way to avoid overeating. The tricky part can be in training yourself to recognize exactly how much is 3 ounces or 1 cup without actually using a measuring cup. Because it is not practical to carry around a scale or measuring cups wherever we are eating, here are a few easy ways to remember some common portion sizes:

  • The palm of your hand is roughly the size of a 3-4 ounce serving of fish, poultry, or meat.
  • A baseball or your fist is equivalent to 1 cup, which is the recommended serving of a vegetable or fruit.
  • Your thumb is about the same size as 1 ounce of cheese.
  • The distance from the tip of your thumb to the thumb knuckle is about the size of a tablespoon. This can be a helpful reminder while eating peanut butter or salad dressing.

Bonus Tip: To control portion size before putting food on your plate, mentally divide the plate in half. Fill one half of the plate with fruit and vegetables, and the other half with whole grains and lean protein.

Smart-size Your Portions Information 

Horticulture at Home
Katy Shook, Area Horticulture Agent

Meet Me Under the Mistletoe

Poor mistletoe. One time a year it gets to be the star of the show, but the rest of the year it has to suffer as a parasite. Love it or hate it, it’s usually not a welcome sight for gardeners.

The legend of mistletoe as a holiday aphrodisiac likely originated with its historical use as a symbol of peace. Enemies were thought to lay down their weapons and observe a truce till the next day if they met under the mistletoe. The English swapped out the meeting for a kiss and so started the holiday tradition. Unfortunately, for gardeners, the sight of mistletoe does not bring out the same warm-fuzzy feelings.

Mistletoe is an evergreen, parasitic plant that relies on a host to develop. It’s commonly found on weak and declining trees. Birds love to visit the plant and eat the white berries that are formed, but unfortunately they “drop off” the seeds as they travel. Roots begin to grow in the branches of a host tree and further weaken the tree. The leaves of mistletoe add weight to the tree, which can be a concern during storms.

The peaceful plant is not easily controlled. The roots are almost impossible to remove without cutting out the entire branch. Even efforts to remove the leaves or apply products that knock it back are not effective. The good news, however, is if you only have a few spots of mistletoe growing in a tree, you can try to cut it out. Gardeners may need to hire someone to complete the work, and it’s worth taking a look at the tree’s overall health in the process. Boost tree health by fertilizing lightly in the spring and keeping equipment off of the roots.

For more information about mistletoe, contact the Ask A Master Gardener℠ Volunteer Helpline at (252) 482-6585.


Mistletoe is a native, evergreen shrub.