Connected Christmas

Your 2015 Gadget-Giving Guide

Ah, Christmas. It’s approaching quickly, and it’s never too early to start shopping. But are you struggling with what to buy that someone who has everything? Here are some of the season’s hottest items that are sure to impress that technologically savvy, hard-to-buy-for family member, significant other or friend.

Wocket Smart Wallet


If you’re tired of keeping up with all the cards in your wallet, the Wocket is for you.

The Wocket Smart Wallet is the world’s smartest wallet. How does it work? First swipe your cards using the card reader included in the Wocket. Information like your voter registration or any membership or loyalty cards with bar codes can also be entered manually.

The information stored in the Wocket is then transmitted through the WocketCard.
The WocketCard gives the information to the point-of-sale device when it is swiped, just as with a regular credit card.

For only $229, you can own the smartest wallet on the planet. Order yours at


The Lily Drone

Have you been considering getting a drone, but can’t bring yourself to pull the trigger? Meet Lily, the drone that takes flight on its own, literally. All you have to do is toss it up in the air, and the motors automatically start.

Unlike traditional drones that require the user to operate what looks like a video game controller, Lily relies on a hockey puck-shaped tracking device strapped to the user’s wrist. GPS and visual subject tracking help Lily know where you are. Unlike other drones, Lily is tethered to you at all times when flying.

Lily features a camera that captures 12-megapixel stills, and 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second, or 720p at 120 frames per second. You can preorder today, but Lily will not be delivered until May 2016. Expect to pay $999.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

If you’re looking for a new personal assistant, Amazon has you covered. The Amazon Echo is designed to do as you command — whether it be adding milk to your shopping list, answering trivia, controlling household temperature or playing your favorite music playlist.

The Echo, which uses an advanced voice recognition system, has seven microphones and can hear your voice from across a room. The Echo activates when hearing the “wake word.” The Echo is constantly evolving, adapting to your speech patterns and personal preferences. “Alexa” is the brain within Echo, which is built into the cloud, meaning it’s constantly getting smarter and updating automatically.

It’s available for $179.99 on



Have you ever wondered what your beloved pup is doing while you’re not at home? Wonder no more. iCPooch allows you to see your dog whenever you’re away. By attaching a tablet to the base of iCPooch, your dog can see you, and you can see them — you can even command iCPooch to dispense a treat.

Just download the free app to your tablet or smartphone and never miss a moment with your pup!

iCPooch is available for $99, not including tablet, from Amazon and the website

Classic Christmas Cookies

Hope Barker, of West Liberty, Kentucky

Hope Barker, of West Liberty, Kentucky, makes family cookie recipes her own.

Cookies so good Santa won’t want to leave

By Anne P. Braly,
Food Editor

We all know that holiday cookies are a lot more than sugar, flour and eggs. They tell a story. Remember walking into grandma’s house only to see warm cookies she just took from the oven sitting on the counter?

Hope Barker has similar stories when she reminisces about baking cookies with her mom. Her favorite recipe is a simple one: sugar cookies.
“My mom and I used to make these when I was young,” she recalls. The recipe came from an old cookbook — now so yellowed and worn with age that it’s fallen apart, but, thankfully the pages were saved and are now kept in a folder.

She learned to cook at the apron strings of her mother, Glyndia Conley, and both grandmothers. “I can remember baking when I was in elementary school,” Barker says. “My mom and I made sugar cookies to take to school parties. And Mamaw Essie (Conley) taught me how to bake and decorate cakes. From Mamaw Nora (Cottle), I learned how to make stack pies — very thin apple pies stacked and sliced like a cake.”

She honed these techniques and soon became known for her baking skills in her town of West Liberty, Kentucky, so much so that she opened a bakery business that she operated from her home, making cookies and cakes for weddings, birthdays, holidays and other special events.
During the holidays, cookies are in demand. Not only are they scrumptious, but just about everyone loves them, too. They make great gifts from the kitchen, and if you arrange them on a beautiful platter, they can become your centerpiece.

“Cookies are easy to make and easy to package,” Barker says. “They don’t require plates and forks, so they are more convenient than many other desserts. Also, because they are less time-consuming, you can make a variety in less time than many other desserts. They can be decorated many different ways. And who doesn’t love to get a plate of pretty cookies?”

But there is one big mistake some less-practiced cooks often make when baking cookies — overbaking.

“If you leave them in the oven until they ‘look’ done, they are going to be overdone,” Barker warns. “The heat in the cookies will continue to bake them after you have taken them out of the oven.”

She says the best outcome for pretty cookies is to start with the right equipment — a good, heavy cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. “This will keep them from sticking to the cookie sheet and help them to brown more evenly on the bottom,” she says. And when finished, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before putting them in a sealed, airtight container to keep them moist.

Barker no longer caters, but she continues to do a lot of baking during the holidays for family, coworkers and friends.
Cookies, she says, just seem to be a universal sign of welcome, good wishes and happy holidays.

Sugar cookies are a delicious and versatile classic during the holiday season. This is Hope Barker’s favorite recipe. They can be made as drop cookies or chilled and rolled for cut-out cookies. You can use the fresh dough and roll balls of it in cinnamon sugar to make Snickerdoodles, or use it as a crust for a fruit pizza.

Classic Sugar Cookies
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup milk
Additional sugar (optional)

Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix very well. Add flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Make sure all ingredients are well-incorporated.
For drop cookies, scoop fresh dough into 1-inch balls and place a couple inches apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Smear a small amount of shortening on the bottom of a glass, dip the glass into the sugar of your choice and flatten each dough ball into a disk about 1/4-inch thick. Continue to dip the glass into sugar and flatten the dough balls until all are flattened into disks. Sugar can be sprinkled on cookies at this point, if desired. Bake the cookies at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven when they begin to color at the edges.
For rolled and cut cookies, refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours or overnight. Roll out portions of the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Sugar can be sprinkled on cookies at this point, if desired. Place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size/thickness of the cookies. Remove from the oven when they begin to color at the edges.

Sugar Cookie Variations

Various Sugar Cookies Frosted Cookies
Bake either the rolled or drop cookies. Prepare your favorite frosting recipe (or buy canned frosting) and frost the cooled cookies. Frosting can be tinted with different colors and piped on in seasonal designs.

When making the drop cookies, mix together 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon with 1 cup granulated sugar. Roll each ball of dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and then put onto the cookie sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a glass into a disk shape and bake as directed.

Maple Cookies
Replace the vanilla flavoring in the recipe with maple flavoring. Make rolled cookies with no sugar on the tops. On the stovetop, stir together 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons milk; stir well. (Be careful as the mixture will splatter a little when you add the milk.) Put saucepan back on stove and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour the mixture over 1 1/2 cups of sifted powdered sugar and mix on low/medium speed until smooth. Drizzle the warm frosting over the cookies with a spoon. Allow to cool completely.

Jell-O Cookies
Make rolled cookies with no sugar on the tops. When the cookies come out of the oven, spread a thin layer of light corn syrup on the tops with a spoon. Immediately sprinkle with Jell-O gelatin powder of your choice. Allow to cool completely.

Fruit Pizza
Use about a half batch of the dough and spread evenly in a greased jelly roll pan. This will be the crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough begins to get some color at the edges and on top. Let the crust cool completely. Mix together 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 7 ounces marshmallow creme. Spread this over the crust. Cut up about 4 cups of fresh fruit (strawberries, kiwi, bananas, mandarin oranges, grapes, apples, etc.) and stir together with a package of strawberry fruit gel. Spread the fruit mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate before slicing and serving.

Celebrate cooperative businesses!

06-sarenaOctober is National Cooperative Month, highlighting businesses like North Central that are built and owned by their customers.

NCTC was founded by local residents who wanted a better communication network for this area. Due to the rural nature of this region, for-profit telecommunications providers would not serve the area because of the high cost of deploying service and the low returns on their investments. Without the cooperative business model, the region would not have the outstanding service it has today.

Remember to celebrate this legacy, not just in October, but year-round.

All the best games are on NCTV this fall!

All the best games are available with service from NCTV this fall. North Central offers great channels like the SEC Network, NFL Network, ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, Fox Sports and many more. You can catch all your favorite games. Several of the channels are also available on Watch TV Everywhere, so you can take the games with you wherever you go. Don’t miss the most in-depth sports coverage programming available. Talk to us about adding NCTV service today!

Exceptional speeds from NCTC

3-15-NancyWhite_New-smallBy Nancy J. White
Chief Executive Officer

Every month or two a news story will appear that looks at the so-called “digital divide” between big cities and rural areas like ours. These stories paint a picture that rural Americans have a more difficult time getting reliable Internet access through broadband.

While statistics may back up that idea in some parts of the country, I’m proud to say our area is the exception thanks to this cooperative. We’re your Gigabit service provider, offering broadband speeds most city residents can only dream of.

In fact, only 8.9 percent of urban Americans and 3.7 percent of rural residents have access to Gigabit Internet service. As a North Central customer, you have access to Internet speeds that 91 percent of big-city residents don’t have!

In some of the recent numbers I’ve seen from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there is a stark contrast between broadband access in rural America and in big cities, if taken as a whole.

As you’ve read in these pages before, the FCC has redefined broadband speeds. Based on that threshold, 94 percent of urban residents have broadband access, compared to only 55 percent of people in rural America.
It would be easy to see those numbers and think rural America has been left behind in today’s technology-driven, connected world.

But that’s not the case here in the Highland Rim.

We’re happy to offer speeds well above those thresholds to our customers, and we’re pleased to bring those connections to everyone across the service area.

We are proud to be the exception to those numbers because it means we’re serving our customers. But we’re also proud to be exceptional because it means our founders were right about banding together to create North Central Telephone.

Cooperatives like ours were founded by local residents who knew a reliable communications network was important and were willing to join together to bring such a network to our area.

October is National Cooperative Month, which is a great time to think about our business model and how it benefits families and businesses in our area.

In a news release from the USDA published in July, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “Broadband is fundamental to expanding economic opportunity and job creation in rural areas, and it is as vital to rural America’s future today as electricity was when USDA began bringing power to rural America 80 years ago.”

Sec. Vilsack is correct. Without access to broadband, our community would be at a disadvantage. And without North Central our area wouldn’t have such access.

Please join us in October (and throughout the year) in celebrating what our founders created and all the advantages we enjoy today because of their vision and dedication to their communities.

Scottsville’s Center for Courageous Kids has one requirement: HAVE FUN!

Scottsdale Center for Courageous Kids

Hundreds of kids experience the time of their life at CCK each summer

By Jeremy Wood

Children and families are involved in dozens of different activities during their time at CCK in Scottsville.

Children and families are involved in dozens of different activities during their time at CCK in Scottsville.

For some, there are enough prescriptions to make their heads spin. For an unfortunate few, there’s ultimately no prescription.
For the 18,000 and counting who’ve come through the gates at The Center for Courageous Kids in Scottsville, though, there’s one simple prescription that’s worked wonders, and it has nothing to do with a physician: fun.

When a child is wheelchair-bound, stricken with cancer or needs daily dialysis treatments, laughter and play can be the best medicine of all.

“Sometimes we have ice cream sundaes for breakfast,” says CCK Communications Director Stormi Murtie. “We roll in pudding; we play in spaghetti. Our goal is to jam-pack their days with laughter.” Just what the doctor ordered.

Special treatment

CCK has helped more than 18,000 children and adults by allowing them to escape the daily hardships of life with illness and letting them enjoy a ‘normal’ vacation in Scottsville.

CCK has helped more than 18,000 children and adults by allowing them to escape the daily hardships of life with illness and letting them enjoy a ‘normal’ vacation in Scottsville.

The Center for Courageous Kids opened in 2008 in Scottsville with the goal of providing a life-changing camp experience paired with top-notch care for medically fragile children. Founded by local philanthropist Betty Campbell, the camp sits on 168 acres and includes plenty of fun stuff — a horse barn, bowling alley, indoor pool, fishing lake, boating area and more — as well as medical facilities that allow them to care for any child at camp, no matter their illness or disability. Children can have chemotherapy treatments in between horseback lessons, advanced respiratory therapy for asthma patients and specialized food for diabetics, and there’s a helipad on site in case a camper needs to get to a hospital quickly.

“We’re one of a handful of camps of this caliber nationwide,” says Murtie. “When the kids pull up and see 160 acres with horses and fishing and bowling, they’re blown away. They love it. We really have no business serving medically fragile children if we aren’t able to medically care for them.”

DSC_0187The late Campbell, known around CCK as “Ms. Betty,” was inspired to create the camp after visiting another medical camp founded by actor Paul Newman and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, and directed by retired Col. Roger Murtie, Stormi’s husband. Ms. Betty herself had lost a son after his own lengthy battle with cancer, and was touched to see young cancer patients having the time of their lives. She made a large financial donation to endow a cancer weekend program at that camp, but didn’t feel it was enough.

“She came home to Scottsville, and then she called Roger and said, ‘I don’t know what to do, but I’m supposed to do more,’” Stormi says.


Big Hug_Stage Day_PhysDis2The Center for Courageous Kids offers different programs to support sick children and their families. Nine one-week sessions during the summer are individually tailored to children with specific illnesses and host 120 children at a time.

There are also 22 weekends during the year where the entire family can come with the ill child to enjoy some rest, relaxation and support from other families who face similar challenges.

“Some of them have not ventured out on a vacation since the child was diagnosed,” says Stormi. “It allows them to get away from the normal routine and bond with other families that have been going through the same thing.”

Melanie Evans, who sends four of her six children — all with varying degrees of cerebral palsy — to CCK, initially came to the camp for one of the family weekends and found the support system for both her children and her husband to be a huge boost of confidence.

“It was definitely reassuring for us,” she says. “We felt a lot less alienated. We felt encouraged and supported. They just have a way of making you feel empowered.”

Evans’ 10-year-old biological triplets (daughters Savannah and Mariah and son Ethan) have been joined by their adopted disabled child, Forever, for a summer week-long session. The family also attended a retreat weekend with the entire crew, including Evans’ two other children, in late March.
Evans says that swimming and the “messy games” have been a big hit with the triplets, and Ethan also loves to perform in the talent show.

“What’s nice is that when you’re there, you feel like anyone else would feel if they went to Disneyland,” she says. “They’re having a blast and having fun. At CCK, there are no limitations. Anything a child wants to do, they can do. They help you to feel like you can do everything just like anybody else.”

071In its infancy, the camp had stretches of time where the facility sat nearly unused. Ms. Betty recruited Roger Murtie, a career army officer who served as Schwarzkopf’s aide-de-camp during Operation Desert Storm, to be the executive director at CCK. Roger soon saw an opportunity to serve another population that is near and dear to his heart. The Center for Courageous Kids becomes Wounded Warrior Camp four times a year, when injured soldiers who are receiving care at nearby Fort Knox and Fort Campbell can come to use the facility.

“I was thrilled, and I felt like I was back with my people again,” says Roger. “Time was available, and our primary benefactor was very patriotic and welcomed the opportunity to serve the soldiers. They were thrilled to come, and I was thrilled to have them.”

To manage the unique challenges of providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the medically fragile, Roger oversees both a paid staff and a veritable army of volunteers. For its summer programs, CCK recruits college-age counselors who are interested in career fields like pharmacy, social work and child care. In addition, doctors, nurses and other caregivers come to work for a week or weeks at a time, with different specialists volunteering during illness-specific weeks. During the summer sessions, the camp tries to maintain a 1:1 ratio of staff to campers.

Looking forward, Stormi says the camp has plans to expand on Ms. Betty’s vision. CCK is in the midst of its first major gift campaign in an effort to raise $10 million over the next 3 to 5 years. The camp hopes to build a lodge for older campers to help teach disabled adults life skills and to become more independent, as well as the addition of a challenge ropes course, amphitheater and reflection center.

“We’re always looking ahead and seeing how we can do what we do better,” she says.


Advancing the community, one connection at a time

Stimulus portion of broadband project nearly complete as NCTC’s new network continues to expand

By Patrick Smith

NCTC linemen remove the copper lines from a residence in Bethpage.

NCTC linemen remove the copper lines from a residence in Bethpage.

When North Central Telephone Cooperative started in 1951, locals banded together to bring telephone service to rural communities that were not profitable enough for large corporations trying to make big earnings for stockholders. Passionate locals went door to door, explaining the benefits of a telephone network and recruiting new members.

One after another, poles were erected and telephone lines were strung throughout the community. Soon, more and more members joined North Central, and over the course of time, a vast telecommunications network was built.

But as time goes on, technology and consumer demands change.

North Central saw the future potential of bringing high-speed broadband to the area, and in January 2010, NCTC was awarded a $50 million loan/grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While the new network would transform the community, it also meant most of the old network, which had previously taken decades to create, would have to be completely rebuilt in just five short years. NCTC accepted the challenge.

“Rebuilding the network so quickly has been a huge feat,” says Nancy White, North Central CEO. “But to see the changes that it’s already brought to our community is incredible. I’m excited to see what will come next.”

The new network is being constructed using fiber optic technology. It works by sending pulses of light along strands of glass the thickness of a human hair. The network is delivering blazing-fast Internet speeds throughout the area, in addition to crystal-clear television and phone service.

In June, North Central will finish building the portion of the network that was to be funded by the stimulus grant. “I’m very proud of the network and the work NCTC has done to build it,” says Bob Smith, North Central’s director of engineering. “When you look at the rural areas that we serve, it’s wonderful to know that these residents have this incredible technology.”

NCTC linemen load a reel of fiber onto a plow.

NCTC linemen load a reel of fiber onto a plow.

With all the work that’s been completed, the stimulus portion of the project isn’t the only top-notch broadband project NCTC is currently building. As work in Tennessee wraps up, North Central will continue expanding its high-speed broadband footprint in Allen County, Kentucky. NCTC was recently awarded a $1.7 million grant to provide broadband to much of Mt. Zion and Amos through the Rural Utilities Service Connected Community Grant.

Since the work began in 2010, thousands of local businesses and residents have seen the impact of broadband. Local health care facilities, 911 centers, area banks and residents are experiencing new possibilities through fiber — a technology that’s not yet available in nearby Nashville.
The efforts of those first North Central patrons have paid off time and again. Over the past 64 years, people have depended on North Central to bring first-class service to the area. NCTC’s services have helped recruit businesses, big and small, and North Central has helped locals live and work in their hometown. Today, broadband is continuing the tradition and helping to bring new innovations to the area.

“The network North Central is building will continue to advance the entire community,” says Smith. “The changes we will see in 10 to 15 years because of broadband will improve the quality of life for the entire region.”


Empowering members to be advocates for rural telecommunications

By Nancy J. White
Chief Executive Officer

The results are in. Almost 200 readers responded to The North Central Connection readership survey in our January/February issue. Your responses gave us good insight into what we’re doing right and how we can serve you better.

I appreciate those who took the time to share this valuable feedback with us.

Not surprisingly, the stories about local people in our community and the articles about food are the most popular pages among respondents. But I was pleased to see readers also enjoy the articles with information about your cooperative.

Perhaps that readership is why 85 percent of respondents said this magazine gave them a better understanding of technology, and 90 percent said they have a better understanding of the role this cooperative plays in economic and community development because of The North Central Connection. It’s very gratifying to know our efforts are working.

I shared this data not to boast about how proud we are of this magazine, but to explain the reason why I’m proud of it. I believe having informed and educated members is a key factor to the long-term health of this cooperative.

In fact, educating our members is one of the seven core principles that lay the foundation for a cooperative. The National Cooperative Business Association says members should be informed about company and industry news “so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative.”

Informed and engaged members make our cooperative better.

Broadband has been in the news quite a bit lately, from net neutrality to the president discussing high-speed network expansion. It’s important for our members to know how federal regulations, state policies and shifts in the industry can affect their broadband and telephone services.

Educating you on issues that matter to rural telecommunications and your community empowers you to become advocates for rural America. Big corporations and urban residents certainly find ways to make their voices heard, and it’s up to cooperatives like us and members like you to let legislators and policymakers know that rural America matters and decisions that affect telecommunications cooperatives matter to rural America.

I hope you enjoy the stories and photos in this magazine. I always do. But I also hope you come away with a little better understanding of your cooperative, the role we play in this community and the role you can play in making rural America better.