Staff Picks

Best. Gift. Ever.

In keeping with the holiday theme, we decided to ask our agents and staff, “What is your favorite gift you’ve ever received for the holidays?” From funny to heartwarming, and everything in between, read on to see what has topped their lists over the years.

He-Man-and-Battlecat-figuresMatt Browning, Director of Communications – Well, there was the time my mom left all my He-Man toys at her office and told me they were on back order with Santa Clause and he’d drop them off soon. Although, my favorite may be my Super Nintendo. I still have it. And still play it.

Tabitha Surface, Extension Agent – Shirt-boxes filled with Nancy Drew books!

Carolyn Stuart, Interim Assistant Program Director for CED & FCS – A Take My Hand and I’ll Walk with You doll.

Kaysha Jackson, Extension Agent – My favorite gift ever was given to me by my older brother. I was 7 years old. On Christmas Day, he walked in the door with a “My Size” doll who stood on her own, had blue hair and came with two tiny discs you could insert in her back to make her sing! What made it even more amazing years later was that this was a time when we had absolutely nothing. Our family was struggling financially, and he began working at the local grocery store to help my mother. He would give my mother most of his check and would save the rest, simply because he wanted to make sure I had a great Christmas and never felt the impact of what we were going through.

Chris Zeto, Extension Agent – An electric scooter when I was in grade school. With snow on the ground and Santa slippers on my feet, I had to take it for a spin as soon as I saw it!

Tammy Hauldren, Extension Associate – The best gift for me always is snow on Christmas Eve and Day!

CPKStacy Herrick, Communications Specialist – The year Cabbage Patch Dolls came out (1983), my parents tried and tried to find one for me for Christmas. Lucky for them, I was too young to make a big deal about it not being under the tree that morning. However, when we were leaving to go visit my grandparents on Christmas afternoon, my dad found a Cabbage Patch Doll sitting on the front seat of his car with a tag that said, “To Stacy, Love, Santa.” To this day, my family still has no idea who left that doll for me (and I still have the doll)!

Stacy Ford, Extension Agent – My engagement ring from my husband! (Or, my twin baby dolls that were anatomically correct.)


Holiday Favorites

We’re back with another week of Staff Pics, this time asking, “What is your favorite holiday book/song?”

Alex Phares, Extension Associate – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is my favorite Christmas book, and my favorite holiday song is “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.”

NightBeforeXmasKaysha Jackson, Extension Agent – My favorite book would have to be The Night Before Christmas by Niroot Puttapipat. I love the illustrations. Favorite song, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.”

Crystal Bishop, STEM Education Coord. – My favorite holiday song is “White Christmas,” while my favorite book is The Night Before Christmas.

Matt Browning, Director of Communications – The traditionalist in me will say my favorite Christmas song is “Silent Night.” The 80s kid in me will say “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses.

Annette Ericksen, Assistant Program Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources – My favorite Christmas song is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but only by Judy Garland.

Holiday Traditions

As another year comes to an end, we begin to reflect on what is important to us and give thanks for those around us. We had fun learning about some of our Extension and Communications staff’s holiday traditions last year, so we decided to ask again this year, “What is your favorite holiday tradition?”

Annette Ericksen, Assistant Program Director for Agriculture & Natural Resources – Making fattigmans. This is a secret Ericksen recipe for a Norwegian treat.

Ray Moeller, Extension Agent – Christmas Eve service followed by Chinese food with the full family.

Hannah Payne, Assistant Program Director for 4-H and Director of CASTEM – Time off = board games!

Stacy Ford, Extension Agent – Buying a new ornament every year and getting the old ones out from years past.

ChristmasPresentCarolyn Stuart, Interim Assistant Program Director for FCS & CED – Waking the children at 12:01 a.m. to open gifts!

Tabitha Surface, Extension Agent – My immediate family getting together on Christmas Eve. We exchange one gift, play games and have a really lovely evening.

2017 New Year Resolutions

As the new year approaches, we begin to look to what 2017 may bring us. After asking our Extension agents what are their New Year’s Resolutions, these were some of their answers.

Kelli Batch, Assistant Program Director – My New Year’s Resolution is to be more sociable in my personal life, as well as more active in my community.

Brad Cochran, Extension Agent – My New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is to be a better husband, father, friend, neighbor and person than in 2016. Losing weight and getting healthier would be nice, too!

Christine Kinder, Extension Agent – My resolutions are to manage time more wisely in all aspects of my life, and take “staycations.” There are places I’ve not traveled to in West Virginia, and I look forward to exploring them!

Ray Moeller, Extension Agent – I don’t technically do resolutions; however, here are a few things I will try to bring into the next year: (1) Be more open and less afraid to ask (even really hard) questions. (2) Take a deep breath when the pressure mounts. (3) Be in meaningful touch with my grandkids at least weekly.

Alex Phares, Extension Associate – My resolutions are to be better about strength training, to read through the Bible by 2018, and to save up for a trip to go somewhere new!

Tabitha Surface, Extension Agent – I don’t usually do New Year’s Resolutions, but one year I had a friend set mine and his were so much more fun and interesting than what I would have assigned myself, so I’ll probably try that again. I’m also going to try to live a more balanced life; I get overly focused on work, usually it is work, and take too much away from personal goals and self-care.

Chris Zeto, Extension Agent – My New Year’s resolution for this coming year is to travel more. Life is about seeing and experiencing new things, and traveling assures them both. Traveling is a wonderful way for friends and family to grow closer together.

Holiday Traditions

This year we decided to ask some of our Extension agents what their favorite holiday traditions were. Below are their answers.

Matt Browning, Director of Communications – My holiday tradition is to redvelvetcheesecakemake a cheesecake for my family’s Christmas Eve celebration, and I’ve been toying with various recipes for about 10 years. I’ve long been a fan of the red velvet cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory, so a few years ago I concocted my own version by combining a few different recipes. I use these Southern Red Velvet Cake and Cream Cheese Frosting recipes from Food Network and my go-to New York Cheesecake recipe from Kraft (sans the crust and the pie filling). I make each recipe individually (usually doubling the frosting one), slice the cakes horizontally, stack them (alternating layers), and then frost. It’s a bit time-consuming but extremely delicious!

Bonnie Dunn, Extension Specialist – Christmas Eve candle light formal dinner with the family and friends. This is how my children learned their proper dining manners that prepared them for their future place in life. The menu has always been the same — Appetizer: Shrimp cocktail and cheese ball. Dinner: beef tenderloin, baked potato, green beans, salad, homemade rolls, fruit salad. Dessert: pumpkin pie, old-fashioned sugar cream pie, lemon cheese pie and a variety of homemade cookies, iced tea and sparkling cider (non-alcoholic) in champagne flutes. We continue to do this but have had to modify a little as the circle of family and friends has increased.

Stacy Ford, Extension Agent – We always celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, so we relax on Christmas day and watch the A Christmas Story movie marathon! Also, my family collects Christmas ornaments, mainly Hallmark, so it’s always fun to get them out and see the ones on my Mom’s tree, too.

Stacy Herrick, Communications Specialist – One of my favorite things to do to eatnparkchristmasstar750kick off the holiday season is to watch the Eat’n Park Christmas Star commercial. I grew up just south of Pittsburgh, and you always knew it was Christmastime when it came on TV.

Kaysha Moreno, Extension Agent – My favorite holiday tradition is being able to sit around with family drinking hot cocoa and watching Christmas movies. Oftentimes, we get so wrapped up in obtaining and giving gifts that we miss the true feeling of peace and love that Christmas brings.

Staff Picks: New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! It’s January, that special month when we all pledge to make a change for the better in our lives…to varying degrees of success! Whether we’re vowing to better manage our time (“Stop procrastinating!”) or get into better shape (“Join a gym!”), every year millions of us take steps to be healthier, happier, more productive people in the new year. Here’s what some of our staff members hope to achieve in 2016.

“My resolution for 2016 is to spend less money on things!”
Jenny Totten, Extension Agent

“I resolve to be more productive this year.”
Robin Turner, Extension Agent

“My resolution for 2016 is to be a better person.”
Bonnie Dunn, Extension Specialist

“I’ve written some novels, so my resolution this year is to get one published.”
Matt Browning, Director of Communications

“My goal for today, tomorrow and every day for the rest of my life is to be more thankful and grateful for how good my God is to me.”
Jeanie Sutphin, Administrative Secretary Senior

“My resolution is to start saving money for a house.”
Kelli Batch, Assistant Program Director

There are tons of resolution ideas out there, like these, for instance. What are your New Year’s resolutions? Tell us in the comments below.