Money

    Kitchen counters that last

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    Quartz withstood almost everything in Consumer Reports’ recent tests of kitchen counter options —stains, hot pots, abrasive pads and knives — and unlike granite, it doesn’t need to be resealed. Its combination of beauty, durability and easy maintenance makes it a great choice for busy kitchens. Granite performed almost as well.

    Both materials are a bit pricey. Laminate is still the budget-friendly choice. Its looks have improved, thanks to better printing.

    But those aren’t your only countertop options. Consumer Reports stained, sliced, scratched, scorched and nicked 14 materials from leading brands and found huge differences in performance. Almost everything stained bamboo counters, and although tile itself is stain- and heat-resistant, the grout between the tiles stains even when sealed, and it can mildew. Except for recycled glass, there was little difference among competing brands of each material. That’s why Consumer Reports rates materials, not brands. So pick the material, then get the brand that offers the color or pattern you prefer at the best price.

Health

No time for a workout? How to fit it into your workday

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Next to “the dog ate my homework,” one of the most lamebrain excuses around might be this one: “Work keeps me too busy to exercise.”

To that, we roll our eyes, engage our core and lift both feet off the ground slowly, hold for a breath or two, and lower them.

“Do you have 60 seconds?” asks Dallas-area personal trainer Kristi Dear. “Do you have two minutes?”

Food

Have fun with healthy lunches for kids

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Every night before bed, Sue Patterson packs her 10-year-old daughter, Emmy, a lunch that resembles a work of art.

Picture a heart-shaped roast beef sandwich nestled into a Hello Kitty container with colorful cups of dried fruit, olives, organic cheese and yogurt-covered pretzels. Or a pink Japanese-style bento box with a California sushi roll, shelled edamame, red grapes and kiwis cut into cute fan shapes.

Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be easier. But Patterson says she’s a big believer in eating a variety of healthy, organic food, so spending 15 to 20 minutes preparing her daughter’s lunch is no big deal.

Your Home

    Tips for fabulous fall tables

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    One of the best places in your home to showcase the bounty and beauty of autumn is on your dining table. It’s a ready-made stage that’s just waiting for a show-stopping presentation that celebrates the colors, textures and iconic images of fall.

    — Consider mixing rustic and refined elements together to create a multi-layered display that’s rich and rewarding to view. A casual table can set the tone, then build from there. Start with a dramatic centerpiece, tall and breathtaking, but not so large as to make cross-table discussion impossible.

    — Fall is the best time of year to pull in hunting lodge pieces, such as faux antler candlesticks because they look so wonderful with the autumnal color palette. For fun, top the candle holders with little faux gourds and fill in the natural arch made by the antlers with a tiered server, which adds to the visual height of the centerpiece and provides a great place to serve dishes.

Faith

    No barriers: Nun directs Dominican literacy program to help women assimilate

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    CHICAGO — “There are two kinds of people — battery chargers and battery drainers,” said Amy Manion of Sugar Grove, Ill. “Sister Kathleen (Ryan) is a battery charger. She inspires the students and tutors.”

    Ryan, 68, is director of the Dominican Literacy Center (dominicanliteracycenter.org), a nonprofit organization in suburban Aurora, Ill., that teaches women, most of them immigrants, to learn to read, write and speak English. The center currently has a staff of seven. Manion is past president of its board.

    A former schoolteacher and principal, Ryan founded the center in 1993. It’s currently housed in a former convent, and the students are female, said Ryan, because “the men learn English at work and the children learn it at school.” Students have 90-minute, weekly lessons during the school year to learn how to read, write and speak English, and graduate after three years. Tutors receive 16 hours of training and use books purchased by the students.

Life

    Four-generation Ambassador

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    Likely hundreds, maybe even thousands, of area residents still own and drive cars made by American Motors Corp.

    But probably not many are fourth-generation owners of vehicles from the longtime former Kenosha automaker.

    Kenosha resident Kelly Ricchio, 38, is the proud owner of a light blue metallic 1967 AMC Ambassador 990.

Books

    ‘The Illusionists’ comes up short

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    “The Illusionists” by Rosie Thomas, c.2014, Overlook Press $27.95, 480 pages

    Now you see it. Now you don’t.

    The magician’s coin jumps from hand to hat and though you’re astounded, that would be an easy trick to learn. You could research, and know how he made an elephant disappear. You could teach yourself how to conjure the right card from a deck.

Travel

    Making art in the Northwoods

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    Outside are the tools and materials of a welder. Inside is the precarious pirouette of a dancer, the menacing glare of a warrior.

    The unusual combination of what you see is as unexpected as the story of how Sara Balbin leaves her mark in the Northwoods, between Drummond and Cable in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

    She is a welder with a woman’s touch, a native of Cuba who has earned the respect of Native American elders. Much began after she left her home in Chicago for Wisconsin’s black bear country during the early 1970s because “I like the adventure.”




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