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.

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.

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!

A stubbornly good business

The Reese brothers have sold mules to hiking and camping companies in the Grand Canyon for decades. (Photo courtesy Graham King)

The Reese brothers have sold mules to hiking and camping companies in the Grand Canyon for decades. (Photo courtesy Graham King)

One area family has put mules to work for nearly 100 years

By Patrick Smith

When the Reese brothers hold auctions, as many as 1,000 hopeful buyers from 35 states travel to Tennessee for a chance at an animal prized for its utility — a mule.

And each year, the family business helps sell thousands of the animals, which can bring prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to as much as $15,000 for a pair of prized draft mules.

The Reese family has been selling mules since the 1920s.

The Reese family has been selling mules since the 1920s.

It all began about 95 years ago. Four generations have had a hand in the business of buying and selling mules. And nearly 100 years of hard work has earned them esteem among mule buyers and traders across the country. They’ve had a hand in selling tens of thousands of mules over the years. Their mules service businesses and private individuals from California to Pennsylvania and dozens of states in between.

After a lifetime in the mule business, the Reese brothers have learned to recognize the difference between a good animal and a bad one. The mules sold from their sales are known to be more hearty, with a larger size and stronger bones than mules one might find in other areas of the country.

Brothers Rufus, left, and Dickie Reese, along with Rufus’s son, Richard, buy and sell thousands of mules at their sales each year.

Brothers Rufus, left, and Dickie Reese, along with Rufus’s son, Richard, buy and sell thousands of mules at their sales each year.

The Reese brothers, Dickie and Rufus, along with Rufus’ son, Richard, typically move anywhere from 100 to 450 mules at each sale. Operating from their home base in Gallatin, Tennessee, the roads leading to their 30-plus acre farm bear metal signs, cut in the shape of mules, directing visitors to their Dry Fork Road property.

Six times a year, they hold some of the largest mule-only auctions in the country. Five of the Reese sales are held at the Westmoreland Expo Center each year, with one additional sale in Shelbyville, Tennessee. At the time of each consignment sale, buyers and sellers from more than 35 states are represented.

“It’ll be standing room only when we have the sale,” says Richard. “There will be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people looking at the mules.”

It all started with Rufus M. Reese, Dickie and Rufus’ grandfather, selling one mule at a time in the 1920s. Long before farmers used the modern tractors of today, mules were one of the most common tools used on farms.

The business continued to grow, and by 1979, Dick and Hub Reese, Rufus’ and Dickie’s father and uncle, respectively, were the main suppliers of mules sold to the military during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. For 10 years, Dick and Hub sold mules through the United States government to supply Afghani forces during the conflict. Though the U.S. and Afghanistan have a rocky relationship today, during this conflict the U.S. supplied rebel Afghani foces to block the invading Soviets.

Most animals took a flight path from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to Belgium, where the plane would refuel, before flying to Pakistan. Then, the animals were trucked to Afghanistan.

The Reese Brothers Mule Company supplies mules to business and individuals across the country, including animals used for hiking in the Grand Canyon.

The Reese Brothers Mule Company supplies mules to business and individuals across the country, including animals used for hiking in the Grand Canyon.

Mules, which are the result of mating a male donkey with a female horse, are incredibly tough, durable animals. Though they may be famous for getting in a few kicks, they’re capable of carrying as much as 300 pounds for a daylong journey. This makes them advantageous for a variety of purposes, which the military discovered in the rocky terrain of the Afghan mountains. Mules continually proved they could double or even triple what people could do alone.

Though the international sales have mostly stopped for the Reese operation, Dickie and Rufus continue to build on the relationships that they’ve fostered over their time in the business. Today, the Reese brothers are the regular suppliers of mules to Hollywood movie sets, hiking and camping companies in the Grand Canyon and Amish farmers in Pennsylvania, as well as carriage operators in New Orleans, Louisiana; Charleston, South Carolina; and Houston, Texas. In addition to the sales, the Reeses also sell more than 300 mules privately from their farm each year.

“We sell them all over the country and meet lots of good people,” says Rufus. “When you see a mule, there’s a decent chance it’s been through our farm at some point in its life,” says Rufus. “It’s more than likely.”
Steve Eller, a Lafayette customer who has bought more than 30 mules from the Reese brothers over the years, won “King Mule,” the top prize at Columbia Mule Day this year. Eller says he appreciates both the number of people and the number of mules at the sales, because he can always find the type of mule he needs. “They’ve always had the biggest sales that I’ve been to in the South,” says Eller. “They’ve always treated me good, and they’ve got a positive reputation nationwide.”

About three years ago, Rufus’ son, Richard, joined as the fourth generation to take part in the family mule business. And much like any business that changes over time to keep up with demand, the Reese operation has recently found great interest in online mule sales.

“It’s been a good deal for us,” says Richard. “It’s great for advertising the mules that we’ve already consigned. We have people come up and ask about specific mules they’ve seen online. It’s nice because otherwise they may not have ever come to the sale.”

After moving their sales to Westmoreland from Dickson, Tennessee, the Reese brothers formed a relationship with North Central to equip the riding ring portion of their facility with high-speed broadband to help grow their sales. While they plan to develop a system to take bids online eventually, the current sales attract plenty of attention online without that convenience. They’ll often have 20,000 or more website hits in the week leading up to a sale, with hundreds of people keeping up with the sale.

“It’s unreal how many people watch the sales online,” Dickie says.

It’s part of a growing trend for businesses, no matter their product, to develop an online presence and find new customers all over the world. While finding buyers for an animal that’s synonymous with the word “stubborn” takes great effort by everyone involved, the Reese brothers have found great success for all their efforts.

“The best part is a when a person buys a mule, and then they take the time to call you back just to tell you how satisfied they are with the animal,” Dickie says. “That’s special.”

Congratulations to NCTC’s loyal employees!

North Central would like to thank its employees for their dedicated service to the cooperative. Recently, nine employees were acknowledged for 145 years of combined service to NCTC.


Pictured are (left to right): Wayne Hesson (35 years), Ricky Rather (25 years), Matt Wyatt (15 years), Shay Tom Clariday (15 years), Dianne Deering (30 years), Linda Mowell (10 years), Amy Jent (5 years), Dondi Malone (5 years) and, not pictured, Laura Law (5 years).

YOUR cooperative is getting national recognition

CEO. Nancy J. White

CEO. Nancy J. White

North Central CEO Nancy White was recognized, along with three fellow telco leaders, by OSP magazine as “Progressive Rural Network Evolutionaries.” OSP is a national magazine which focuses on providing educational content for the information and communications technology industries. White’s photo was featured on the April cover, along with an interview inside.