Is there a denuded Christmas tree lurking about your premises? Friday, Jan. 20 is the last day to Merry Mulch your tree locally. Be sure to remove all decorations and the stand before taking it to Kendall's Hardware or River Hill Garden Center. If you delay, you'll need to take the tree to the landfill to be mulched.

"Children on Board," Howard County's annual child care and preschool information fair will be held at the Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville Saturday, Jan. 21 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Parents, grandparents, guardians and child care providers are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to donate to the Food Bank as you come and collect information.

Admission is free. To learn more, contact 410-313-1940 or childcare@howardcountymd.gov.

Would you like to grow and market vegetables on your bit of land? The University of Maryland Extension — Montgomery County Office is offering "Starting a Second Career in Local Food — Commercial Food Production and Marketing for the New Farmer on Small Acreage" open to Howard County residents.

Classes will be held in Derwood on Tuesday evenings Jan. 24 and 30, Feb.14, 21 and 28, March 13 and 20 and April 10 from 6-8:45 p.m. The $15 fee for materials and refreshments will be collected the first evening. Contact 301-590-2807 or cfs@umd.edu to register or learn more.

Congratulations to Sam Osheroff on coming in first at the Clarksville Middle School Spelling Bee. The eighth-grader has won first place for the third time and will be going to the Howard County Library Bee March 10. The previous two times, Sam made it to the national bee and everyone is hoping for a "threepeat."

First runner-up, sixth-grader Megan Rabe, alternate is waiting in the wings should Sam be unable to compete. Congratulations to both fine spellers and best wishes for this year and years to come.

Clarksville Middle School will hold its geography bee Wednesday, Jan. 25.

Christine Kwon and Amy Li (visual arts) and Chris Young (photography) are moving on from Clarksville Middle School to the county level in the Reflections competition. Good luck.

Is chili a favorite cold weather meal at your house? Do you have a secret recipe that everyone dearly loves? You might want to enter the chili cook-off at Roots Market on Jan. 28. Check it out.

Financial literacy is an essential skill that can be grasped by youth ages 12-18. Unfortunately, it's an area of learning that is often overlooked and in some cases has not been mastered by parents. Put your money skills to the test as a family.

Take the Y-Fi Challenge Jan. 28 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Kittleman Room at Howard Community College. It takes about an hour for this interactive, reality simulation designed for youth ages 12-18 and their parents.

First, you will "get your career" and see just how much or little the job pays. This is a very important decision. Then stretch your paycheck to cover all your expenses. Go "shopping" and see if you can stick to your budget. Watch out for your "Lucky or Unlucky Chance" card to stay on track. It's an eye-opener.

Families will have greater appreciation and understanding of how to support one another in making earning, spending and saving decisions. Stretching a dollar to cover all needs and some wants isn't as easy as it may look.

Registration is encouraged, but not required. Registration seems like a prudent choice. Go to http://www.yfichallenge.eventbrite.com to register. Have fun.