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CONSHOHOCKEN — Organizers of the prom scheduled for Conshohocken Great American Pub’s ballroom on Feb. 22 say this 7-11 p.m. social will be a lot different from the time-honored rite-of-passage hosted by most high schools.

Every year, Gwynedd Mercy University’s President, Deanne H. D’Emilio, makes a special appearance at the Valie Genuardi Hobbit House to celebrate “P” Day. GMercyU's littlest students, lovingly referred to as “hobbits,” invited President D’Emilio to celebrate in their annual tradition of honoring one of their favorite letters. Over the course of the year, the Hobbits hold celebrations for each letter of the alphabet, and “P” Day is always one of their favorites! The students, teachers, and even President D'Emilio gathered in their pajamas to eat pancakes and party! The hobbits even performed a fun little song and dance for President D'Emilio while she visited.

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There are some things we tend to do without thinking, like automatically responding with the words “God bless you” when someone in our company sneezes. It doesn’t seem to matter whether we know the person or not -- common practice and politeness dictate this familiar response, but why?

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Looking for something special to do this Valentine’s Day? If you’re a bird-lover, you don’t have to look any farther than this year’s annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), which starts on Feb. 14. The four-day Count, now in its 23rd year, is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, and engages participants around the world.

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The competition. The commercials. The soup. Yes, soup. Got a game plan for “Souper” Bowl Sunday? Area chefs offered a peek inside their playbooks, sharing three fumble-free recipes even a rookie can tackle.

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Ditched alcohol for Dry January (or altogether)? Take heart, teetotalers! Going sans spirits doesn’t have to be boring as area restaurants zero in on zero-proof cocktails.

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The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act was signed into law on December 20, 2019 by President Trump. It was part of spending legislation passed by the U.S. Congress. The law can be a game changer for those who have saved, or are saving, or intend to save for retirement.

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–For me, as a vegetable grower, this is a heady time of year. It’s full of possibilities, laid out in the seed catalogues that have started cropping up in my mailbox. But mail-order isn’t the only game in town. You can save your own seeds from year to year, or you can search out local seed-swapping events. There’s even a National Seed Swap Day, observed annually on the last Saturday in January to help promote the practice.

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AMBLER — Ambler Restaurant Week is in full swing, attracting thousands of foodies and visitors to local eateries. The event began Monday, Jan. 6 , and continues until Monday, Jan. 13. 

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Hosting 25 or 50 at a New Year’s party seemed like a great idea in October. But right about now, you’re wondering what ever possessed you to follow through and invite a crowd to celebrate chez vous when you hate cooking and can’t remember the last time you bought a bottle of wine.

Time to be proud of ourselves! Proud of who we are, of what we do that’s right and good, proud of how much we like ourselves. Really?

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What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this year? Bet you can almost taste it. So can area chefs who shared their top picks … from seafood to short ribs, cookies to cold-brew cocktails.

If you haven’t yet caught the Danish-inspired wave called “hygge “-- pronounced hoo-gah -- which has created a hyped up marketing fad the past few winters, it may be because you don’t know your cool and comfy from your cold and edgy.

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That dog-eared page in a treasured cookbook, grandma’s handwritten recipe, the dough you know by heart ... it’s cookie time! And it’s a gift guaranteed to “bake” the holidays a little brighter.

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“Knead” gifts for foodies on your list? While cookbooks and kitchen gadgets always delight, surprise them this year with the gift of “thyme.” We’re talking epicurean experiences - food tours, wine tastings and cooking classes.

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In the secular world, the calendar year is winding down and drawing to a close, with hopes for increased consumer spending and a good bottom line. In the church, we have already stepped into the new year with the season of Advent, a season of hoping and waiting for something of much greater significance than profits or spending — a season during which we are invited to lean into God’s future unafraid and dare to dream God’s dreams.

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Holiday shopping season is in full swing, and for many shoppers, that means perusing small shops and boutiques in search of that perfect gift.

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We all know it’s rude to comment on what people eat on the holidays. Right up there with asking when someone’s getting married, when they’re having babies, why they did lousy in school, why they lost their job, what they’re doing that’s meaningful with their lives, and why they don’t look so good.

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POTTSTOWN -- As we approach the end of the 19th year of a new century and millennium, Pottstown has attained its 258th birthday. John Potts bought the land upon which Pottstown would be built in 1751, but construction of the town did not begin until November 1761.

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The Social Security Administration has announced an 1.6 percent increase in benefits for 2020, which is less than the increase that Social Security beneficiaries received in 2019 by almost one-half. (https://www.elderlawanswers.com/the-2020-social-security-increase-will-be-smaller-than-2019s-17403). Increases are tied to the consumer price index; the modest uptick in inflation and gas prices means a smaller increase in Social Security benefits. In 2019, the increase in benefits was 2.8 percent; in 2018, the increase was 2 percent. The average monthly benefit for an individual will go up to $1,503 per month, which is an average of $24 per month or $288 per year. The cost-of-living change also will affect the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security tax, from the current $132,700 up to $137,700.

Gary Hague of Hague’s Christmas Trees, Hatfield, received the National Grand Champion blue ribbon for his decorated wreath at the 2019 National Christmas Tree Association contest in Lackawanna County in August, and will present two matching wreaths in the winning design to Pennsylvania’s First Lady, Frances Wolf.

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The Thanksgiving countdown’s on! First, we feast and then we hunt … for bargains. Beginning Black Friday, “shop small, save big” with some of the best food and wine deals around.

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Dreaming of a Rockwellian or Insta-worthy Thanksgiving? We put out the Bat-Signal’s cooking equivalent, and some of the area’s kitchen heroes answered the call. Just follow their tips, tricks and recipes for a low-stress, high-praise feast - beginning with the bird.

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Since we all know it’s the little things that make us crazy, yet at the same time it’s the little things that keep us sane, why not make an exchange. Because with the holidays coming, it’s the little things that will be both our demise and our salvation.

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On January 23, 2013, the United States District Court of Vermont approved a settlement (Jimmo v. Sebelius) requiring the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to confirm that Medicare beneficiaries receiving care in a skilled care facility, home health, or outpatient services are to receive continued care based upon the need for skilled care, and not based upon the potential (or lack thereof) of improvement. In other words, a Medicare beneficiary who otherwise qualifies for care under their Medicare benefit cannot be denied continued coverage because they failed to improve or have “plateaued.” This applies to all Medicare beneficiaries across care settings, whether or not they have Original Medicare or an Advantage plan. The Center for Medicare Advocacy (the Center), the plaintiffs’ attorney in Jimmo, has published a recent article on their website detailing the disturbing lack of compliance with the terms of the settlement and how to file an expedited/fast track appeal. (www.medicareadvocacy.org).

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What does the number 1,667 mean to you? Well, if you’re a writer participating in National Novel Writing Month, that figure represents the amount of words you are going to try to write each day throughout November.

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It is open enrollment time again for Medicare beneficiaries (October 15 to December 7). This is the time of year to review your current Medicare plans such as Medigap, Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription plans. Even if you or your loved one does not make any changes, it is worth the review.