A sweet time is had by all in candy-making class at Cromwell Valley Park [Loch Raven]

In spite of sticky fingers, chocolate smudges and frequent laughter, the eight students managed to complete the class taught by Leo Rebetsky, park manager at Cromwell Valley Park on the fourth Saturday of November. The subject was holiday candy making.

The introductory class was designed to teach the participants the basics of making homemade candy by dipping nuts and fruits in chocolate. The ladies dipped almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, apples, peaches, apricots, and candied ginger. They made a vanilla fondant using powdered sugar, corn syrup, and butter and wrapped it around maraschino cherries that they dipped in chocolate. Fondant is the creamy filling found in many chocolate-covered candy.

Rebetsky's interest in making candy developed after sampling candy made by his sister. He then researched and experimented with various ingredients and candy molds. Since the candy he gives as gifts is well received, he decided to offer the class at the park.

"Deconstruction and reconstruction" is a technique he said he developed in which he replaces the pit of a dried apricot with a nut and then dips the entire fruit in chocolate. Students learned to make this treat.

Rebetsky reported that the students followed his first rule of candy making — do not lick your fingers — possibly because they were able to taste and take home some of their sweet treats. He also reported that the students commented on how easy it was to produce the confections and that it was a lot of fun to do.

Another class on candy making — unfortunately — won't happen until at least next November.

But there are other upcoming programs at the park to get participants in the holiday spirit.

On Saturday, Dec. 14, participants 13 and older can learn to make a holiday centerpiece using fresh greens and a candle. Cost is $3 for members or $5 for nonmembers. The class will take place in the Willow Grove Nature Education Center from 11a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Dec. 21 from 10:30 a.m. to noon, kids 5 to 10 accompanied by an adult may attend a holiday story time and make a craft. Cost is $2 for members and $4 for nonmembers.

To make a reservation for any of the programs, call 410-887-2503 or email info@cromwellvalleypark.org. The park is located at 2002 Cromwell Bridge Road.

Congratulations to Calvert Hall College High School's five robotics teams who made it to the final tier at the Northwest Maryland VEX Robotics Competition held at the Carroll County Agricultural Center in Westminster this fall. This is the first time all of Calvert Hall's team have made it to this level.

Two of the five teams won awards and are invited to participate in the Maryland State Robotics Championships in March 2014.

One team, junior Chris Iler and seniors Danny Kumpf and Nathan Wyand earned two awards: the Excellence Award and the Driver Skills Challenge Award. The Excellence Award is the highest award presented in a VEX Competition for a team "that exemplifies overall excellence in creating a high quality VEX robotics program, excelling in many areas as a shining example of dedication, devotion, hard work and teamwork."

The other award-winning team from the school comprises freshmen Casey Borror, Jake Cassell, Nick Nemphos and Nick Townsley. They earned the Design Award, which is presented "to a team that demonstrates an organized and professional approach to the design process, project and time management and team organization."

Santa will also stop at Hiss United Methodist Church on Saturday, Dec. 7 to greet the kids and families gathered for breakfast. The menu is pancakes, sausage, fruit, mini-muffins and drinks that will be served from 9 to 10:30 a.m. with crafts activities photos with Santa beginning at 10 a.m. Tickets are $8 per person with a maximum of $32 per family and must be purchased in advance by calling Sue Crue at 410-599-7925. The church is located at 8700 Harford Road.

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