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We rounded out 2020 with COVID-19 putting another kink in gym workouts given the most recent round of closures. This happened just when you finally got back into your workout groove, which means you might have been in a position where you had to scramble to rethink, yet again, the best way to get in your physical activity.

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I loved my plant taxonomy course in college — learning how botanists determine which plants are related to each other and placing them in “families.” I was fascinated, specifically, by how taxonomists trace the evolution of plants from the oldest (those with the simplest of reproductive parts) to the most recent and highly-evolved. In the section of study on angiosperms (flowering plants), this took us from the Buttercup Family, with its relatively rudimentary reproductive parts, to the Composite Family, with all the bells and whistles.

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As the temperature goes down, it’s time to turn the heat up on our beverages. Here are some of the best places in the area to get Hot Chocolate. Includes spiked Hot Chocolate for adults only, and some tamer versions for children.

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Over the years that I’ve been growing vegetables, I’ve discovered that seed catalogues — arriving in mailboxes this month in advance of spring planting — often contain much more than photos of the various varieties offered and how to grow them. With plant histories, stunning photos, and recipes from around the world, some seed catalogs have also become part travelogue, part history, and part cookbook.

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I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to realize this, but over the past twenty-five years or so, while busy planting vegetables and perennials, I’ve forgot to plant trees. And now it’s starting to show.

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There is no pandemic or crisis that could ever dim the lights of Christmas. In our homes and in our churches we have already set up Christmas trees, hanged wreaths and even constructed the Nativity Scene. These wonderful symbols of Christmas bring hope and joy to all — not just the young, but also to the young at heart. These symbols of Christmas provide us with comfort and hope; however, we should move beyond these symbols to the real meaning of Christmas, “Jesus Christ, Our Savior, was born.”

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During the Middle Ages, the carillon bells in Old World towns played a key role in daily life, signaling everything from meal times to civic emergencies. Centuries later, the bells in the carillon at St. Thomas’ Church, Whitemarsh are largely celebratory. But during this time of COVID-19, the melodic rhythms of the local bells have also been known to help soothe jangled nerves and temporarily calm the confusion of life interrupted.

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The Year 2020 is almost over, and many people are counting down the minutes until a fresh, and hopefully better, start in 2021. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and other events of 2020 have significantly impacted several aspects of life. In addition to affecting how people work, go to school, and exercise, COVID has also resulted in greater mental health challenges.

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PLYMOUTH -- Attention, Colonial School District residents, students, teachers and alumni. Student Council members at Colonial Middle School are putting together a fundraising cookbook, and they need your recipes to make that happen. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 31, and everyone in Conshohocken, Plymouth and Whitemarsh is invited to contribute.

The Connelly Foundation has announced its 2021 Neumann Scholars, awarding 40 academically talented eighth grade students from 30 regional parochial schools with four-year, full scholarships to attend any Philadelphia Archdiocesan high school of their choosing.

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There comes a time in life when the unthinkable suddenly makes sense. Even if you never were a badass. Never sat on your Harley smoking cigarettes behind a dive bar, never wore studded boots with mini shorts, never got sick drunk at a party.

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Holiday gift-giving season is officially upon us and there has never been a better time to center some of them on the theme of wellness. Since the pandemic is an experience that is impacting everyone in one way or another, there is no question that gifts aiming to remind people to take care of themselves are likely to be appreciated by the recipient.

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Because of their almost magical life cycle from “lowly” caterpillar to inert chrysalis to stunningly beautiful adult, butterflies have long been a symbol of transformation. But as New York Times bestselling author Wendy Williams details in her new book, “The Language of Butterflies,” these ephemeral, winged creatures are much more than that. In telling the story, Williams touches on so many different areas, including fossil hunting, why we experience jet-lag, the contributions of women and even children to the advancement of science, how the human eye sees, our addiction to color, and so much more. Woven through all of that, of course, is the story of how butterflies actually work.

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In addition to being a season focused on holiday decorations and lights, December is also a time of year that celebrates the act of giving. Giving can mean a variety of different things for different people, but usually involves some type of activity that benefits others.

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Have gardeners on your gift list? Lucky you! It’s so easy to find great gifts for gardeners — there’s no end to books, tools, gifts, and gadgets created just for them. This year, the editors of HomeGardenandHomestead.com have checked out websites and flipped through catalogs to find some thoughtful gifts for everyone on your shopping list. All can be purchased online.

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With more and more schools switching to remote learning as of late due to the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the nation, it has equated to kids being cooped up at home and getting less physical activity. Combine that with cold temperatures and a parent who might need to focus on getting their own professional work done from home, and you have a situation where a solution is needed to help a child stay active.

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What do you do with an exorbitant quantity of rocks that no one quite knows what to do with? I mean, a LOT of rocks? If you’re Dan Lindley, you turn them into an enormous rock garden. I’ve seen the ongoing project several times, and it’s amazing. However, Lindley, who lives and lugs rocks at the Tel-Hai Retirement Community in Honey Brook, PA, has resisted any publicity or praise for his efforts. Earlier this year, though, when pressed by fellow Tel-Hai resident and gardener Shirley Walton, Lindley agreed to let Walton enter him in my informal “Homegrown National Park” contest.

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In today’s world, so much of our day-to-day lives involve technology and the internet. Most have switched to online banking, online bill paying, and utilize various apps and data storage plans. While technology and the internet are convenient, it has taken the laws sounding estate planning time to catch up.

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Probate is a topic that is greatly misunderstood. The word “probate” tends to invoke negative feelings. It is almost as if probate is a big conspiracy to get individuals to pay money to an attorney when it appears unnecessary. I can assure you that probate is not as big, bad, and scary as many think. And, as much as I enjoy a good conspiracy theory, “probate” is not part of a conspiracy to take your money. That being said, there are definitely tricks and tips that can help simplify your estate and cut down on estate administration expenses upon your passing. Planning ahead by making sure your estate plan is in order is the best way to save money for your heirs.

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FORT WASHINGTON -- The Fort Washington Lightbridge Academy, an early education and child care center, in partnership with the brand’s non-profit, the Lightbridge Foundation, has recently donated $500 to a local, deserving charity. Lightbridge Academy owner Randi Weiss and center director Jane Bucknam chose to donate these funds to the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund, a local charity that lightens burdens and lifts spirits of families caring for children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and injuries since 1976.

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Can’t be with your whole extended family for Thanksgiving? Is your Friendsgiving cancelled? Here’s something to be thankful for - places that are making Thanksgiving “to go.” So even if you don’t have the company, you can still have a celebration with all the trimmings and without the cooking. Here are some good options for Thanksgiving 2020-style:

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PLYMOUTH — First Friday dinners at Plymouth Meeting’s Church on the Mall usually take place at communal tables in the congregation’s tranquil sanctuary. The free monthly meals are cooked from scratch by church members, open to anyone – congregants, area residents or workers, folks passing through on SEPTA – and seen as “a way to provide a place where everyone belongs, everyone is fed and no one is a stranger.”

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The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and “Excellence in Education” worldwide. Each year, the Beta Pi Chapter of the Society awards scholarships to area students pursuing a degree in Education. This year the Beta Pi Chapter, based in Montgomery County, recognizes and congratulates three $1,000 scholarship recipients for 2020. High school senior recipients include Alyssa Galban, of Upper Merion, and Nya Cherry of Methacton, both of whom are currently attending Penn State University. The college scholarship winner, Margaret Ostrich, is a senior at West Chester University.

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While thoughts of Thanksgiving often conjure up images of food that is synonymous with the holiday, for some it’s also a day to put in some miles before feasting. Two annual turkey-themed wellness events coming up this month are designed to be fun for the whole family and take some of the guilt out of going for a second helping.

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I stopped by a roadside stand in Kimberton about two weeks ago to buy some flowers. I was so wowed by the big, beautiful dahlias in the mixed-fall-flowers bouquet that I didn’t even notice the large, hairy, pale green, balloon-y things tucked into the middle. Running from one thing to the next on a busy morning, I just plunked the whole rubber-banded batch into water when I got home and didn’t notice the spherical oddities until I refilled the vase a few days later. It was a big bouquet, but still . . . I honestly don’t know how I missed something so large — each about three inches in diameter — and so strange.

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Trusts can be useful tools to protect your assets, save on estate taxes, or set aside money for a family member. However, whether you need to add a trust to your estate plan depends on your unique family situation, financial position, and estate planning goals. In Pennsylvania, the benefits of creating a revocable living trust for the sole purpose of avoiding probate is debatable. Pennsylvania, unlike other states has a straightforward probate process and the costs are typically less than the cost to set up a trust. Additionally, in Pennsylvania the personal representative of the estate (Executor named in the Will or the Administrator appointed by the Register of Wills in the last county of residence), is granted authority to manage the estate with little to no court involvement.

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Last spring, when vegetable seeds were hard to come by and I was feeling a little desperate to get my garden started, I looked to my refrigerator for things that I could plant. That included several potatoes that had already started to form “eyes” in the back of the vegetable bin. I also turned to more unlikely things, like trying to grow my own sweet potato slips. I watched several how-to videos, and got started.

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CONSHOHOCKEN -- Mental health pros agree that human connection is more important than ever during the pandemic. Enter BAM Talk at Conshohocken United Methodist Church. The new discussion group focuses on books, articles and movies – ergo, the BAM acronym. But the get-togethers are designed to be free-ranging, and so far, participants say, “they’ve been lots of fun.” Best of all, spokesmen Pat Patterson and Randi Pizzico quip, “there are no pop quizzes…just an enjoyable night of energetic conversation.”

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Every year when October rolls around and pumpkins start appearing in lawn decorations and on doorsteps everywhere, I recall a visit I made in 2005 to see Ron Takacs’ backyard pumpkin patch in West Whiteland Township. Takacs was well-known locally for growing giant versions of this familiar, orange squash, with each weighing in at 200-plus pounds. In fact, he freely gave them away to neighbors — they just had to able to lug them home! Surprisingly, those 200-pounders that Takacs was growing weren’t even close to being the biggest pumpkins possible. Not by a long shot. Champions weigh in at over 1,000 pounds.