Author Archives: Village Lane Staff

Back to Nature: Pond Ice Skating!

by Village Lane Staff

Norman Rockwell: Ice Skaters

Norman Rockwell: Ice Skaters

Skating is a great winter sport: among  its advantages are that it is a social activity that can be learned with or without formal lessons; it can be enjoyed indoors or out in the fresh air and sunlight; and it is a relatively low-cost, family friendly activity.

In fact, skating can be just about free to almost anyone near a frozen pond or lake. All you need is a pair of skates…and some common sense about safety.

So get up and go, but don’t start out without first reading these Ice Skating Safety Tips from the USDA:

Before going out onto a frozen lake, pond or river, it’s important to take safety precautions to reduce the risk of falling through the ice. Knowing how to judge ice conditions will also help you make more informed decisions while enjoying the pearls of winter.

Remember you take a risk anytime you go out onto the ice.

Ice thickness is not consistent. Water currents, particularly around narrow spots, bridges, inlets and outlets, are always suspect for thin ice.

When ice fishing, it is always a good idea to drill test holes as you progress out onto a lake to help judge the thickness and character of the ice.

Beware of ice around partially submerged objects, such as trees, logs brush, embankments or dam structures.

Don’t judge ice strictly by appearance.

Stay away from cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas that signify thinner ice.

Be aware of ice that forms at the edges of a lake during the fall and melts at the edges first in spring. However, ice generally should be clear at least four to six inches thick to support one person.

Be aware of ice covered with snow. Sometimes the snow serves as insulation. Other times, it has the opposite effect by insulating the surface from freezing.

Carefully Check Ice Conditions

Never go out onto the ice alone. A buddy should be able to rescue you or go for help if you fall through.

When changing locations on the ice always walk at least 10 yards apart from your buddy. If one person falls through the ice, the other can go for help.

Before you leave shore, inform someone of your destination and expected time of return.

Always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD), over an ordinary snowmobile suit or layered winter clothing. Life jackets can provide excellent flotation and protection from hypothermia (loss of body heat). Specialized coats that float or dry suits are also recommended.

Assemble a personal safety kit, no larger than the size of a man’s wallet, and carry it on your body. The kit should include a lighter, waterproof matches, magnesium fire starter, pocketknife, compass and whistle.

In addition to the above safety equipment, carry ice picks, a rope and cellular phone. These items could save your life.

Always keep your pet on a leash. If a pet falls through the ice, do not attempt to rescue your pet. Go for help.

What to Do if You Fall Through the Ice

If you cannot get out of the cold water by yourself, take the appropriate actions to extend your survival time while waiting to be rescued.

Stay calm. Do not attempt to swim, swimming will cause our body to lose heat much faster than if you stay as still as possible.

Use a whistle to attract help.

Act slowly and deliberately to conserve heat, and move slowly back to where you entered the water. Expect a progressive decrease in your strength and ability to move. Make the harder moves to attempt to get out of the beginning while you can.

If you are wearing a snowmobile helmet and your face is in the water, remove the helmet as quickly as possible because it can fill with water and cause you to drown. Hold onto it to keep afloat.

Once on the ice, try to push yourself forward on your stomach or roll on your side to keep the weight distributed over a greater surface area. Do not stand up until you have moved onto the ground or an area of solid ice.


So stay alert, heed these safety tips, and enjoy!


Winter Travel: Crossing the Delaware

by Village Lane Staff


On Christmas Day in 1776, in snow and frigid temperatures, George Washington led his troops across the Delaware River, between Washington Crossing in Pennsylvania and Titusville, New Jersey.

Washington’s courageous leadership reversed the direction of events in the Revolutionary War against the British.  The New Jersey Department of Parks and Forestry explains:

“On December 25, 1776, the icy waters of the Delaware River provided the setting for one of the pivotal events of the American Revolution. The Continental Army had little to celebrate that Christmas and seemed beat by hunger and cold. After crossing the rough winter river at night, General George Washington and the Continental Army landed at Johnson’s Ferry, at the site now known as Washington Crossing State Park. At 4 am, they began their march to Trenton where they defeated the Hessian troops in an unexpected attack. This battle was quickly followed by the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777, and the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777.”

Each year at Christmas time, this extraordinary event is re-enacted in Titusville, with curious visitors coming out to see the place where Washington changed history, and to honor both Washington and the brave men who followed him.

A visit to Titusville, NJ, or Washington Crossing, PA, however,  in winter or at any time of year, is inspiring for young and old.  The towns surrounding the crossing site are charming and thought-provoking, featuring museums, guided tours, restaurants, and, especially for warm weather visits, beautifully maintained parks for outdoor enjoyment and picnics.

For more information about visiting Washington’s Crossing on the Pennsylvania side:

For more information about visiting Washington’s Crossing on the New Jersey side:

Both visits can be made on the same day, as a bridge connects the two towns.

One can also view the renowned painting by American artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816-1868)  painting, “George Washington Crossing the Delaware” (pictured above) in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Learn more about this famous work of art from an expert Metropolitan Museum’s curator.



Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

When You’re Thirsty, Try SodaStream!

by Village Lane Staff

Soda Stream

Soda Stream


Made in Israel, and currently under a global boycott by anti-Israel haters, SodaStream is an easy to use, fun product that enables you to make seltzers and sodas quickly, right in your own kitchen.

Kids love to use it, and you’ll love it, too because you’ll be lugging fewer heavy soda bottles from the store, and using fewer plastic soda bottles in your home.

Village Lane’s Country Kitchen recommends you choose natural flavorings to add to your Soda Stream creation. 

The creators of SodaStream tell us that by using this “active green” product, we can help the environment using water straight from the tap!    Here is what the makers of SodaStream tell us about their product and the environment:

Did you know?Bottled water is not safer than tap water (Food & Water Watch Organization)The bottled water industry has created a misconception in the United States that bottled water is cleaner, safer, and healthier than tap water. In fact, both regulation and enforcement of bottled water safety is weaker than of tap water safety. Federal, state, and local environmental agencies require rigorous testing of tap water safety.Bottled water is a waste of money(Food & Water Watch Organization)Americans spent $10 billion on bottled water in 2005 and paid up to 1,000 times the cost of production, a major windfall of profit for the companies. Bottled water can costs $7.50 to $11.00 per gallon in the supermarket but tap water costs most customers only one-tenth of one cent per gallon.Bottled water is bad for the environment(Food & Water Watch Organization)The United States is the world’s largest consumer of bottled water, purchasing 37 billion bottles in 2005. Our daily bottled water habit is bad for people and bad for the environment. Bottled water wastes fossil fuels and water in production and transport, and when the water is drunk the bottles become a major source of waste.



SodaStream: Better than recyclingHow Does SodaStream Help the Environment? SodaStream is an “Active Green” product, meaning that consumers  are actively reducing their CO2 footprint every time they make soda  or sparkling water at home instead of buying it from the store. The more the system is used on a daily basis, the more CO2 footprint the user actively saves. (This differs from “Passive Green” products, which use green-friendly production processes, but their products are not inherently helping the consumers save on their daily footprint.)Because SodaStream uses water straight from the tap, the system makes traditional store-bought beverage bottles obsolete. That means less plastic manufactured, less plastic waste is created, and fewer bottled beverages must be transported from manufacturers to distributors to stores to homes.Globally, 206 billion liters of bottled water were consumed in 2008 (Zenith International Global Bottled Water Report, 2008). The energy required to make water bottles in the US only, is equivalent to 17 million barrels of oil (Container Recycling Institute, 2002).According to the US Recycling Institute, more than 80% of bottles in the US do not get recycled and end up in landfills. Also, an estimated 4.7 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions were produced in the process of replacing the 134 billion bottles and cans not recycled in 2005.Using your own home carbonation system means:

  • Less packaging waste from cans and bottles.
  • Less pollution caused by transport of bottled beverages.

One SodaStream carbonator makes 60 or 110 liters, equivalent to 170 or 310 aluminum cans! When empty, the carbonator is refilled and reused, ready to make more fizzy and tasty soda whenever you want it.

For more information and to purchase SodaStream: SodaStream

Spring Pools by Robert Frost, 1884-1963

by Village Lane Staff

Robert Frost, American poet

Robert Frost, American poet

These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods—
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.

A Brief History of Our Annual Cherry Blossom Festival

by Village Lane Staff

In 1912, Japan made a gift of thousands of cherry trees to the American people.

In 1912, Japan made a gift of thousands of cherry trees to the American people.

From the National Cherry Blossom Festival: History of the Cherry Blossom Trees and Festival

“Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries.

“It took the coordination of many to ensure the arrival of the cherry trees.  A first batch of 2,000 trees arrived diseased in 1910, but did not deter the parties.  Between the governments of the two countries, coordination by Dr. Jokichi Takamine, a world-famous chemist and the founder of Sankyo Co., Ltd. (today know as Daiichi Sankyo), Dr. David Fairchild of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Eliza Scidmore, first female board member of the National Geographic Society, and First Lady Helen Herron Taft, more than 3,000 trees arrived in Washington in 1912. In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.

“Over the years, gifts have been exchanged between the two countries. In 1915, the United States Government reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. In 1981, the cycle of giving came full circle. Japanese horticulturists were given cuttings from the trees to replace some cherry trees in Japan which had been destroyed in a flood.

“Since First Lady Taft’s involvement, the nation’s first ladies have been proponents of the Festival.  Historically, many were involved in events through the National Conference of State Societies’ Princess Program. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower crowned Queen Janet Bailey in 1953, and in 1976 Betty Ford invited the princesses to the White House. In 1965, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 Yoshino trees from the government of Japan and held a tree planting reenactment. All first ladies in recent years have served as Honorary Chair, many participating as well.

“Today’s National Cherry Blossom Festival has grown from modest beginnings into the nation’s greatest springtime celebration. A group of American school children reenacted the initial planting and other activities, effectively holding the first “festival” in 1927.  The festivities grew again in 1935, sponsored by civic groups in the nation’s capital. The Festival was expanded to two weeks in 1994 to accommodate a diverse activity schedule during the blooming period.

“Over the years, millions have participated in Festival events and viewed the flowering cherry trees.  In 2012, the Festival expanded to five weeks (from 16 days in recent previous years) to provide a grand tribute to the 100-year anniversary of the gift of trees.  Today, more than 1.5 million people visit Washington, DC each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees and participate in diverse programming that heralds spring in the nation’s capital.”

Travel: A Winter Wonderland…in the Center of New York City!

by Village Lane Staff

ice skating bryant

In case you won’t be near a frozen pond this winter, New York City has a great destination:

The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park features a 170′ x 100′ ice skating rink with free admission!

The Winter Village will also offer skate rentals, skate sharpening, skating shows, special rates for custom children’s parties and special events, more than 125 boutique-style holiday shops in the park’s tree-lined allées, and eateries with fun winter treats!

Visit  or for further visitor information.


Village Lane Recommends: “Alone in the Wilderness”

by Village Lane Staff

For a look at one man’s magnificent adventure in the Alaska wilderness, be sure to see “Alone in the Wilderness,” the story of a most remarkable man, Dick Proenneke.

Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke (born May 4, 1916 – April 20, 2003) was an American naturalist who lived for years alone in the remote region of Alaska known as Twin Lakes.

Wanting his relatives in the lower 48 to see what life was like in Alaska, Proennke filmed his years alone with nature, building a cabin to live in, hunting for his food, cooking, learning and recording data about wildlife and plants, and exploring the expansive terrain in freezing temperatures.

Bob Swerer used the best of that footage to create three extraordinary videos: “Alone in the Wilderness”, “Alaska, Silence and Solitude” and “The Frozen North”.   The skills, innovation, hardiness, and fortitude of Pronneke are all captured in these stunning films.

These videos can be purchased in DVD or VHS format from the website and are also available on your PBS website.  Highly recommended!

Village Lane Recommends: Fun-To-Make Treats

by Village Lane Staff

Ebleskiver pancakes. Photo credit: Williams-Sonoma

Ebleskiver pancakes. Photo credit: Williams-Sonoma

Village Lane Staff received the gift of an Ebelskiver pan and Danish Pancake Mix two years ago, and often recommend these sweet or savory treats.  

This gift is particularly welcome for families with children who are learning to cook and who will love the ease of turning out something so delicious for weekend mornings.   Parents will  appreciate the easy clean-up of the specially designed Ebelskiver pan.  

To save on calories and fat, we spray the pan with Pam cooking spray instead of using butter to coat the pan.

The pan, wooden turners and mix wrapped up together with a great big bow makes a lovely and thoughtful Made in U.S. A. housewarming gift for friends. 

— Village Lane Staff

From the Williams-Sonoma website:

Williams-Sonoma Ebelskiver Pancake Mix

Beloved in their native Denmark, ebelskivers are puffy, spherical filled pancakes that are made sweet or savory for breakfast, dessert or hors d’oeuvres. Use our mix to make authentic ebelskivers at home; just add milk, butter and egg yolks, and fold in whipped egg whites to give the batter its signature lightness. Both flavored with Our Classic mix is sweetened with sugar and a hint of pure Madagascar Bourbon vanilla; Chocolate is flavored with premium cocoa and vanilla. Bake them in our ebelskiver pan (sold separately), and fill them with your favorite ingredients – meat, cheese, fruit, chocolate or applesauce, the traditional Danish filling. Made in USA.

Nordic Ware Ebelskiver Filled-Pancake Pan

A beloved treat in their native Denmark, ebelskivers are light, puffy pancakes that can be filled with fruit, chocolate, jam or cheese and served for breakfast or as an hors d’oeuvre, dessert or light supper. The pancakes are easy to prepare at home using our popular pan made by Minnesota-based Nordic Ware.  Made of cast aluminum for superior heat retention and distribution. Durable PFOA-free nonstick interior surface for low-fat cooking, stick-free release of ball-shaped pancakes and easy cleanup.  Riveted cast-stainless-steel handle stays cool.  Makes seven 2 1/4″ diam. pancakes.  Made in USA.

Photo Credit: Williams-Sonoma

This Winter, Discover Your Local Science Museum

by Village Lane Staff

Now that winter is here, your young techies or scientists — or curious kids of any age — will benefit from an outing to one of America’s premier children’s science museums.

Interactive exhibits, hands-on experiments, activities that engage both the mind and body, kid-oriented explanations of scientific concepts, and multi-media presentations that rev up the young imagination will delight and educate the children…and you!

Some our nation’s most popular children’s science museums are over a century old, while others, such as the new National Children’s Museum at National Harbor, MD, are newer, state-of-the-art establishments.  Consider visiting the classic, awe-inspiring institutions as New York’s American Museum of Natural History, Chicago’s Field Museum, and, of course, the National Air & Space Museum  in Washington, DC, which is part of the Smithsonian complex.

Smaller science museums in your area may offer a calmer — and thus more hands-on and accessible — learning experience. For example, the DaVinci Science Center in Allentown, PA,  has friendly, on-site volunteers who actively help youngsters learn about and understand the museum’s fascinating interactive exhibits.

The Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska near Omaha is one of the nation’s premier aviation museums, and has recently opened a youth-friendly air and space library.  Planetariums across the country often feature special events related to planets, stars and space exploration, and university-affiliated museums, such as the Texas Natural Science Center, which is affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin, offer the benefits of being on or near the stimulating environment of the college campus.  Cleveland, Ohio’s Great Lakes Science Center offers not only the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, but also the six-story Cleveland Clinic Omnimax Theater, featuring “the most sophisticated and powerful motion-picture projection system in the world” showing science and space-related features.

Most of the museums are priced reasonably for the family budget, and an outing to a fun, interactive science or space museum certainly is preferable to having one’s children sitting zombie-like in front of video games or tv. Some of the museums offer an occasional free day or evening, with the generous participation of corporate sponsors — check the museums’ websites.

Many science museums also offer outdoor exhibits: try the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC; the Discovery Outdoor Science Park in Rockville, IL, or the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, VT. 

There are too many great science museums to mention here, so do search online for children’s museums and science centers in your area: visit the Association of Children’s Museums, which lists over 200 museums, or consider these outstanding choices:

  • Children’s Museum (Indianapolis)
  • Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago)
  • California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco)
  • Bradbury Science Museum (Los Alamos, N.M.)
  • The Museum of Discovery (Little Rock, Ark)
  • California Science Center (Los Angeles)
  • Exploratorium (San Francisco)
  • Museum of Science (Boston)
  • Pacific Science Center (Seattle)
  • COSI Center of Science & Industry (Columbus, Ohio)
  • Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Liberty Science Center (Newark, NJ)
  • St. Louis Science Center (St. Louis)
  • Fernbank Science Center (Atlanta)


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Photo credit: Shutterstock

Put America Back to Work: Buy American!

by Village Lane Staff


One of our New Year’s resolutions here at Village Lane was to buy less, and when we do buy, to buy American!  

Where to find Made in the USA products?  Here is a list of websites that can help.

Do let us know if you have  other suggestions for Made in USA products or resources. 

American Apparel

American Made Matters

Burt’s Bees

Buy Direct USA

By America, For America

Haute Americana


Made Collection 

Made Here in America 

Made in the USA Challenge 

Made in USA Forever

Maker’s Mark


Save the Garment Center 




The Continuous Lean: The American List 

The Made in America Movement

USA Love List 

USA Only

[Note: The above list is neither a promotion of nor endorsement of the items produced by or claims made by the websites or listed companies.]