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Archive | November, 2011

Christmas in Belle Plaine

Christmas in Belle Plaine

Last Saturday, November 25th, was a busy day for the children of Belle Plaine.  The Belle Plaine Community Development Corp. hosted Santa’s Workshop.  The kids made holiday crafts and reindeer feed and then frosted some holiday cookies.  This was held in the basement of the American

Making Reindeer Feed

Legion while a craft show was held upstairs.

Sisters and their Christmas hats

Before the Workshop, there was Lunch with Santa at the Library.  Santa was there to hear the wish list of any child who approached him (he can be kind of a scary guy to the little ones). The kids munched on hot dogs and cookies and seemed to be enjoying themselves.

The free movie this year was Smurfs.  As the people were coming out of the King Theater, they all seemed to have smiles on their faces.

Free horse drawn covered wagon rides were next on the agenda.  The team of Percheron draft horses were waiting patiently for riders to get out of the movie theater.  The horses were beautiful and had wonderful temperaments.  They are a pair of sister from the Victor area.  Their owner, a young man who is just 19, told me that he had been handling horses for as long as he could remember.  His grandfather was his mentor and inspiration for the joy he finds working with horses.  He told me that when he and his grandfather were at a horse sale several years ago and this team came up for bid, he was a little hesitant to bid on the huge animals, but his grandpa was sure they could be worked with and would make a fine team.  His grandfather has since passed away but the owner of

Riding in the wagon with Grandma!

these two horses informed me that he thinks purchasing the team was one of the smarted things his grandfather ever did.  The horses are so well trained that they can be right beside the railroad tracks and the train whistle will blow and the horses won’t even flinch.  As we were riding down 13th Street, a few cars didn’t want to go as slowly as the wagon was moving so they went around us and it didn’t faze the Percherons.

At 5 o’clock hot cocoa and cookies were served in front of the library as we gathered around the town’s Christmas Tree waiting for it to be lighted.  After a couple of false starts, the tree glowed with blue and white lights.  Everybody there sang Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and then we all headed home to get warm.

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JH/HS Bulletin:  Tuesday, November 29th

JH/HS Bulletin: Tuesday, November 29th

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Connecting Students to Future Careers

Connecting Students to Future Careers

Local Meets Global – Connecting Area Students to Future Careers
Nanci Young, Workplace Learning Connection


You can’t contemplate the future without considering the impact of science, technology, engineering and math in our everyday experiences, especially in our jobs. Students in high school will be facing far different workplace demands than their parents. And, our middle school and elementary school population need to be prepared for jobs that don’t even exist today! The 34 school districts within the Grant Wood Area Education Agency Area 10, including Belle Plaine Community Schools, are partnering with Workplace Learning Connection (WLC) to not only ride the wave of STEM careers, but to get in front of the demand by providing work-based learning opportunities for their students.


Area high school students are job shadowing in STEM careers and participating in class-credit student internships at area STEM businesses. Local professionals employed in STEM careers are hosting worksite tours and going to elementary, middle and high school classes to speak to students about their careers. To date, WLC has connected students to STEM careers over 850 times this school year.


Chemistry teacher, Jennifer Brown, Kennedy High School, explains why STEM education experiences are so important, “STEM careers are growing quickly and if we don’t produce students to fill those positions, they will be lost to employees outside the US. Students are often unaware of the number and scope of options available to them, so it is important to increase their exposure. By working with WLC, we have access to the large number of connections that they have developed with the community.”


Sarah K from Xavier High School talks about her job shadow experience at St. Luke’s Hospital, “I think that it was really important for me to actually see what an occupational therapist gets to do. I learned exactly what kind of work the job entailed, what kind of training I would need, and what the market looked like for those skills. This experience will definitely help me in selecting my major in the next couple of years.” Claire T, Linn-Mar High School student, shadowed a physical therapist, “I learned about the different types of physical therapy, and shadowed one kind. It made me really interested to find out more about the rest! It has interested me to take more science classes and keep pushing towards this career path!”


Pete Kies, Lab Technician from Genencor International, explains why he participates in work-based learning activities, “I enjoy my work and I like being able to tell the kids that there are some cool jobs out there, if you have the skills and the knowledge to qualify for them.”


STEM touches a wide variety of career fields, over 75 of them explored this year through WLC’s job shadows, internships and events. These fields span five different pathways and include careers like veterinarians and ag mechanics (Agriscience and Natural Resources), graphic designers (Arts and Communications), accountants, computer engineers and web designers (Business, Information Technology, Marketing and Management), machinists, aerospace engineering, and skilled trades (Engineering, Industrial and Technical Sciences), and dieticians, EMT’s and dermatologists (Health Sciences).


The need for STEM career education opportunities continues to grow. This fall, Governor Brandstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds commissioned a STEM Advisory Council to grow Iowa’s commitment to bolstering STEM education, STEM innovation and to better position Iowa’s young people and the state’s economy for the future. Workplace Learning Connection plays a role in this initiative by providing STEM career experiences to K-12 students and instructors in this area’s 7-county region. To learn how to be a part of this wave of education, innovation and economic development, go to or become a fan of WLC’s Facebook page,


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Oh So Good by Lisa Knapp

Oh So Good by Lisa Knapp

O.K. I admit it, I don’t make the big Christmas dinner. I found that everybody ate appetizers and when dinner whas ready, nobody was hungry. So, I just started making an assortment of appetizers.
Pizza “egg rolls”
1/2 lb. hamburger, cooked and cooled
1/2 lb. sausage (regular or Italian), cooked and cooled
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can mushrooms, chopped
1 c. pizza sauce (your favorite brand)
1 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 pkg. egg roll wrappers
Combine everything except the egg roll wrappers. Open egg roll wrappers and cover with a damp towel. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, place wrapper with point toward you. Place approximately 1/4 c. of meat mixture off center on egg roll wrapper, moisten edges with water. Bring bottom point over the meat mixture, bring each side point toward center, and continue to roll up. Place on a cookie sheet and continue with remaining wrappers until ll are used. Freeze on cookie sheet. Move to a freezer bag after the rolls are completely frozen. When you are ready to cook them, heat 1/2-1 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet to 350*. Fry rolls until well browned on all sides, approx. 8 min. Keep warm in a 300* oven. Add or remove any of the meats as desired according to your taste.
Brie in croissants
Preheat oven to 350*. Remove rind from a wheel of brie, slice approx. 1/4 inch thick. Slice croissants, but not all the way through. Put cheese slices on croissant, place on baking sheet. Bake at 350* until cheese is melted, approx. 6-10 min. Add slices of ham, turkey, or cooked brats when assembling if desired.

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SICL Conference Honor Choir Festival

SICL Conference Honor Choir Festival

Top Left to Right: Rachel Blink, Jamie Rich, Jessie Simpson (In far right corner), Bottom Left to Right: Alexandria Brown, Katie Rich, Mitch Brehm, HLV

On November 15 at 7 p.m. I attended the SICL Conference Honor Choir Festival at BGM.  The guest conductor was Noel Fulkerson from Independence, Missouri.  All six pieces performed by the Honor Choir were beautifully done. Mr. Fulkerson had the students clapping and swaying to the music in the last two  pieces.  I left the concert feeling light and happy.  Though the concert was short, only about 1/2 hour in length, it was certainly worth the effort to attend.   Belle Plaine High School sent 14 students to participate in the Festival.  Sopranos:  Emily Coover and Melissa Stull.  Altos:  Kameo Pope, Sadie Andersen, Alexandria Brown, Jessie Simpson, Jamie Rich, Katie Rich, Rachel Blink, Miranda Pope, and Molly O’Brien.  Tenors:  Matt O’Brien and RJ Northup.  Bass:  Josh Hotz. Other schools in attendance where HLV, Keota, Sigourney, North Mahaska, Montezuma, English Valleys, Iowa Valley, Tri County, Lynnville Sully, and BGM.


Left to Right: Jon Dentel, HLV, Matt O'Brien, Josh Hotz




Top center: Emily Coover, Bottom center: Melissa Stull, Bottom right: Molly O'Brien

Benefits of Arts Education Experience by Janet E. Rubin, PhD

The arts engage students in ways that other subjects may not, providing ways into learning that complement learning styles and encourage creative risk-taking.  The arts are process-oriented, facilitate inquiry and promote self-expression.  Through the arts, children can see themselves as creators who value their own ideas and respect the ideas of others.  This gateway to learning helps them to understand that there is not always a right answer to a question or that there may be multile ways to address a problem.

The arts allow students to learn both from their successes and from their mistakes.  The positive results are tangible–both in terms of arts content learning and in the ability to understand and communicate meaning across discip0lines.  In addition, the arts can make positive social changes and open doors to knowledge.  Their talents are nurtured as their potential is realized.


  • Improves academic performance
  • Results in better attendance and lowers dropout rates
  • Levels the playing field for students from disadvantaged socioeconomic background
  • Builds self-esteem
  • Fosters self-confidence and self-expression
  • Improves academic and performance skills for children with learning disabilities
  • Improves literacy skills
  • Fosters motivation
  • Creates empathy for and understanding of others
  • Improves oral and written communication skills

Howard, Bruce and John Gills, High School Today-The Voice of Education-Based Athletic and Arts Activities, Volume 4, Number 5, 2011: A Publication of  NFSHSA.

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More Iowans Going Hungry

More Iowans Going Hungry

Over 37,000 individuals in the United Way of East Central Iowa’s six county service area are food insecure which represents 12% of the total population.  Food security is defined as having access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More than 50% of food insecure individuals in the UWECI service area are at or above 185% of the Federal Poverty Line.  For example, a family of four earning $39,113 or more may simply not have enough income to meet their basic needs.  Recession may be the primary factor in food insecurity, as wages and poverty are intertwined with the problem.

Some of the federal programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP-formerly known as food stamps- free and reduced-price school lunches and the Emergency Food Assistance Program that provide food assistance are at risk of being cut.

In Iowa, more than 1,160 local and regional emergency feeding organizations distribute food to those in need.

Political dynamics in Washington will likely challenge efforts to maintain adequate funding for food programs when the 2012 Farm Bill is written.  Faith-based and nonprofit organizations cannot completely fill the gap.  Federal programs are an integral part of assistance.

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Oh So Good Beef Wellington

Oh So Good Beef Wellington

Last week I had the opportunity to go to the Taste of Home cooking school in Marshalltown. How to make breakfast pizza with a crescent roll crust to Hot Fudge Cake made in a crockpot were just a couple of the demonstrations. My favorite was Individual Beef Wellington. Perfect for a small dinner with friends or for a special celebration.
6 beef tenderloin steaks 1/4 c. chopped shallots
(1-1 1/2 in. thick-8 oz. each) 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
4 Tbsp. butter, divided 1 can condensed beef consomme ( 10 1/2 oz.)
3 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed undiluted
1 egg, lightly beaten 3 Tbsp. port wine, optional
1/2 lb. sliced fresh mushrooms 2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
In a large skillet, brown steaks in 2 Tbsp. butter for 2-3 min. on each side. Remove and keep warm.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each puff pastry sheet into a 14 in. X 91/2 in. rectangle. Cut into two 7 in. squares (discard scraps). Place a steak in the center of each square. Lightly brush pastry edges with water. Bring opposite corners of pastry over steak, pinch seams to seal tightly. Cut 4 small slits in top of pastry. Place on a greased 15 in. X 10 in. X 1 in. baking sheet. Brush with egg. Bake at 400* for 25-35 min. or until pastry is golden brown and meat reaches desired doneness (145* for med rare, 160* for med. 170* for well done).
Meanwhile, in the same skillet, saute mushrooms and shallots in the remaining butter for 3-5 min. or until tender. Add flour and cook for 2-3 min. Add consomme and stir until smooth.Bring to a boil and cook and stir for 2 min, or until thickened. Stir in wine (if using) and thyme. Cook another 2 min. Serve with beef.
Since this week is Thanksgiving, how about an easy supper while you are trying to do all those things for the perfect dinner? Hot wing pizza.
Bake 8-14 boneless hot wing chicken tenders according to the package directions. Cool enough to handle, then cut into bite size peices. Next, bake your favorite cheese pizza (I like thick crust) according to directions. About 5 minutes before the pizza is done , remove it from the oven, scatter the hot wing chicken on it, add some blue cheese crumbles and return to the oven. If you don’t have blue cheese, drizzle with blue cheese salad dressing or ranch salad dressing. Serve with a green salad.

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Senator Grassley on Medicare Open Enrollment

Senator Grassley on Medicare Open Enrollment

Q&A on Medicare open enrollment

with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley


Q: What does open enrollment mean for seniors?

A: The Medicare open enrollment period for 2012 is under way. Any enrollee who wants to change plans needs to do so by December 7, 2011. The annual enrollment period applies to Medicare Parts A and B, which is traditional Medicare; the alternative to Medicare Parts A and B, which is Medicare Advantage; and Medicare Part D, which is the prescription drug program added to Medicare in 2003.


During open enrollment, Medicare beneficiaries don’t have to make changes if they don’t want or need to. They can switch from traditional Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, move from Medicare Advantage to traditional Medicare, or switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. They can enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan, drop Medicare prescription drug coverage, or switch from one drug plan to another.

Helpful consumer information is available at


Q: What happens if plans are discontinued?

A: Most Medicare enrollees will not need to change plans, and most enrollees whose current coverage won’t be available next year – whether it’s Medicare Advantage or one of the Medicare drug benefit plans – will be enrolled automatically in a new plan, as spelled out in a Notice of Change that insurers were required to send beneficiaries in October. However, automatic re-enrollment is not always the case, so it’s important to read any paperwork you receive this fall. You may need to re-enroll yourself.


Some insurance plans make changes to prescription drug plans. It might be higher or lower costs, or the dropping or adding of medications. Medicare beneficiaries should examine their plans for 2012 changes. It’s important to review your options every year for both financial and health needs.


For 2012, Medicare beneficiaries have plan options that offer enhanced coverage, including zero deductibles and coverage in the gap for generic drugs. In Iowa, there are 33 Medicare prescription drug plans available for 2012. These plans offer additional options, such as coverage in the standard benefit’s coverage gap and a deductible below the standard $310, including plans without a deductible. For 2012, the lowest Medicare prescription drug plan available in Iowa for 2012 is $15.10 per month. Overall, drug plans have seen a slight decrease in premiums for 2012. I co-authored the legislation that created the Medicare prescription drug program. Competition among insurers was built into the program design to keep costs low for enrollees, and the program has delivered consistently better-than-expected results in keeping premiums low and affordable. Beneficiary satisfaction also is high, with 95 percent of enrollees saying their Part D plan works well, and 94 percent saying it’s easy to use, in a survey conducted this year.


Q: What kind of help is available to sort through enrollment questions?

A: Many states, including Iowa, have set up Senior Health Insurance Information Programs. Iowa’s program provides confidential guidance to individuals, and it’s free of charge. Those who have questions about plan options or unresolved issues with plans should call the Senior Health Insurance Information Program, or SHIIP, at 1-800-351-4664.


Monday, November 21, 2011

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Master Gardener Applications Being Accepted

Master Gardener Applications Being Accepted

ISU Extension, Benton County

News Release

DATE              November 21, 2011

CONTACT     Greg Walston, Benton County Extension Service, phone:  319-472-4739

Kill date:  December 5, 2011


Applications for ISU Extension Master Gardener Being Accepted


Are you an avid gardener, but would like to know more about gardening, plants and horticulture?  Would you like to meet people who share your interest in gardening?  If so, you may be interested in becoming a MASTER GARDENER.


What is a MASTER GARDENER?  Master Gardeners are individuals who have an interest in horticulture, have taken the Master Gardener training offered by the extension service and share their time and expertise with other gardeners.  It is the acquisition of knowledge, their skill in gardening and giving back to the community that distinguishes a Master Gardener from other gardeners.


The purpose of the Iowa Master Gardener Program is to provide unbiased, scientific-based horticultural information to the citizens of Iowa through the volunteer efforts of Master Gardeners.  Master Gardeners are residents of a community who take an active interest in horticulture.  They receive training in horticulture through the ISU Extension.  In return for their training, Master Gardeners volunteer in extension horticulture programs and projects, which enhance the community.


The requirements to become a Master Gardener include a $150 fee to cover the cost of educational materials and a commitment to do 40 hours of extension service.  Individuals receive instruction in a wide range of horticulture and related areas:  houseplants, herbaceous ornamentals, turf grass, vegetables, woody landscape plants, plant propagation, fruits, soils, wildlife management, pesticide safety, integrated pest management, plant pathology, entomology and garden design.


Training will be offered for Benton County this spring.  Training sessions last for three hours and are held once a week. You would also be expected to attend one Saturday on-campus session. The instructors are state and local extension specialists as well as knowledgeable, local gardeners.  After completion of the training program, individuals become Master Gardener Interns.  They are promoted to the title of Master Gardener upon completion of their 40-hour service commitment.  Master Gardeners can remain active members in following years by attending six or more hours of in-service education and contributing twelve or more hours of community service.


Training for the Spring 2012 Master Gardener class is being offered jointly by the Benton and Black Hawk County Extension Offices in January, February and March on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm.  If you are interested in becoming an Iowa Master Gardener, contact the Benton County Extension Office at phone: 319-472-4739 for an application or to find out more information.    Applications will be accepted until December 20 and interviews will be scheduled later in December to select participants for classes that begin in January.


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Notice of Public Hearing

Notice of Public Hearing



Notice is hereby given that considerations of a proposed ordinance shall be held as follows:

                 1st consideration – December 1, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.

                 2nd consideration – December 8, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.

                 3rd consideration – December 13, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.


in the Boardroom on the second floor of the Benton County Courthouse, Vinton, Iowa.  


Title:  Ordinance #65 Amending Benton County Ordinance No. 24, Benton County, Iowa, Agricultural Land Preservation Ordinance, and Amending Ordinance #63, Benton County Code Of Ordinances, Chapter 4, Section 4.1


Summary:   The purpose of this ordinance is to amend Ordinance No. 24, Benton County, Iowa, Agricultural Land Preservation Ordinance, to add to Article II, Section 2. Definitions and to amend Article VI, Section 2, Paragraph 2.1 Permission Approval Procedures Required.  It is also the purpose of this ordinance to amend Ordinance #63, the Benton County Code of Ordinances, to include Ordinance #65 in Chapter 4, Section 4.1.


Copies of the full ordinance are available at the office of the County Auditor.


November 23, 2011.


Jill Marlow, Benton County Auditor



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