Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
Tired of bringing the same old high-calorie bottle of wine or box of cookies as gifts to holiday parties? The co-authors of the new book Grain Crazy: Recipes for Healthy Living are here to help. Their homemade gift ideas are easy, creative, delicious and healthy. (Or check out these presents your kids can make.) You’ll feel good about giving their ideas listed below, and your host will appreciate your thoughtfulness. Here’s what Cherie Schetselaar, mother of seven, and her daughter, Britney Rule, mother of three, put together. They also run the popular blog called Grain Crazy.
“We’ve gathered some of our favorite ideas here of treats you can bring that will add some additional health to your friends’ holiday–along with some sweet cheer.
1. Homemade Salsa—It’s the type of snack that we see way too little of during the holidays. Who doesn’t like a spicy treat to warm up a chilly night?
2. Granola—Granola is great because it can be a snack, breakfast, or a dessert—just throw it in with yogurt and fruit for a healthy parfait. We provide our recipe below.
3. Freezer Jam—Jam is something every household uses, right? This is a yummy, but useful gift that you can dress up to be festive and cute. Package it in a mason jar with a ribbon tied around the top.
4. Whole Grain Bread—Everyone loves homemade bread. Pair this with the freezer jam and you’ve got a slam-dunk gift.
5. Candied Nuts—Give some of those “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” The aroma of toasted nuts and spices feels like Christmastime. Our favorites are pecans and almonds.
6. Jarred Fruit—If you spend time canning in the summer months, consider giving a jar of your favorite jarred fruit. To those that don’t have the time, means, or knowledge to can their own fruit, this is a perfect taste of summer in the cold of winter.”
We love the “clumping factor” of this granola. It’s a healthy alternative to the cold cereal my dad and brother love to eat. It would make a perfect hostess gift or Christmas present for a neighbor.
Here’s my favorite recipe:
2/3 cup of honey
1/2 cup of coconut oil
3 cups of old-fashioned oats
1 cup of almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup of sesame seeds
1 cup of sunflower seeds
1 cup of unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg
Dried fruit, raisins, dates, craisins, if desired
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the honey and oil together in a small bowl. Set it aside.
2. Mix together all of the dry ingredients. Pour in the honey mixture. Stir until all the ingredients are combined.
3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Pour the granola onto the cookie sheet. It will be thick.
4. Place it in the oven. Bake it for 30 minutes. Stir the granola a couple of times during cooking.
5. Let it cool on the counter and store in an air-tight container.
Makes 5 cups
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Friday, December 13th, 2013
Two hardworking, kick-booty moms who live in my town of Montclair, New Jersey, created top-selling ballerina DVDs for little girls called Prima Princessa. Their version of The Nutcracker breaks down the story and features little girls and professionals performing it. It’s no less than spectacular–my two girls and even my boy twirled around to it when they were preschoolers. You might have caught the programs when they aired on public television stations around the world in recent years. They also produced Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
This year, Stephanie and Mary Kate have added a beautiful hardback book called Ballet for Beginners to their line of dance-inspiring products. In Ballet for Beginners, they break down the beautiful moves in photos and descriptions. It’s great for little girls just starting all the way up to teenage girls who would like to have references.
I got in touch with Stephanie and Mary Kate to see what they’ve been up to. Check out their answers below and find out why ballet is good for our kids, how to get little girls started and more!
KK: What ages does your new book, Ballet for Beginners, target?
Stephanie Troeller and Mary Kate Mellow (see left): Our book is designed for preschool children up to teenagers as well as parents looking for an overview of the world of ballet training. Little kids love the book because it is full of fun photos of preschool kids dancing and cartoons of Prima Princessa, our ballerina fairy. Children just starting out in ballet class as well as more serious student get to see great photos of some of the best ballet students in the world demonstrating most of the major steps and positions in ballet.
KK: What tips do you have for moms with small children who would like their kids to love ballet?
ST and MKM: Well we would have to say take your children to see a real ballet or you can have them watch one of our 3 Prima Princessa DVDs: Prima Princessa Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake. Each of these shows features a real ballet on stage performed by top ballet companies. The ballets have been edited in a child-friendly fashion, and they feature narration by our animated ballerina fairy Prima Princessa so children can follow the plot. Interspersed throughout the show are mini-dance breaks where children get to practice the ballet steps the they saw on stage with students from the School of American Ballet, official academy of the New York City Ballet.
We have tons of parents writing to us all the time about how their children love to dress up in their tutus and dance along to Prima Princessa shows. We specifically designed these shows to inspire children to dance.
KK: Is ballet just for little girls?
ST and MKM: Ballet is for everyone! Our shows and book are designed to inspire both future ballet dancers as well as ballet lovers right now! Are shows and book are something families will enjoy watching and reading together.
KK: How is ballet good for our kids?
ST and MKM: Ballet is not only great exercise, but it teaches children how hard work and discipline can pay off. Whether your children sticks with ballet or not, exposing them to ballet at an early age will develop in them an appreciation of the performing arts. In this age of instant gratification with downloadable games, apps, texting and snap chat the experience of watching a ballet performance is completely different. It really gets a child’s brain working in a more in depth fashion where they take the time to absorb and enjoy a classic fairy tale story like The Nutcracker as it unfolds through breathtaking dancing set to Tchaikovsky’s music.
KK: What’s a fun ballet move we can learn right now?
ST and MKM: Well our guess is your kids have probably been doing a bunch of ballet moves without even knowing it. Jumps, Spins, kicks and standing on ones tippy toes are all ballet movements. While our book shows precise ballet steps executed perfectly by the best students in the world, our shows feature preschooler, ballet students, professional ballerina as well as animals and toys doing ballet moves! We are not only showing ballet moves, but the spirit behind each ballet movement. On our website on our Be a Ballerina Page you can watch a video and learn how to do a Bouree.
Click to the Prima Princessa site for holiday games, tutus, DVDs and even this printable magic wand.
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Wednesday, December 11th, 2013
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I read a story on The Huffington Post today about a little boy who wrote a letter to Santa in 1915. He asked for a box of paint, a book and a back to put it in. If Santa had any to spare, he also asked for nuts and candy. I showed this letter to my little girl the same age who has asked for a Nintendo DS, Super Mario Brothers, an iPad, an American Girl doll, a hamster and other things. She doesn’t understand that the spirit of the season is about giving. It’s my job to teach her. I need to get to work.
Authors Saren Loosli and April Perry totally agree with me. They recently wrote the book Deliberate Motherhood. Read their story below and find the two tips they have about teaching kids the joy of giving.
“As the holidays approach and our children get excited about all that Santa might bring, materialism and give-me attitudes can start to set in. While it’s wonderful to see our children’s joyful anticipation regarding the gifts they may receive, perhaps one of the greatest things we can give our children is the opportunity to experience the true joy of giving.
When I was growing up, my siblings and I worked hard in November and December to earn money for Christmas presents. My parents wanted us to fully experience the joy of giving at Christmastime alongside the joy of receiving. So from the time we were very young, we worked, earned money and purchased all our own Christmas gifts. And some of my favorite holiday memories are centered on the gifts I was able to give to family members and the sweet modest gifts I received from siblings.
I’ll never forget one year when my sister gave me a very unexpected and generous gift. Whenever we were shopping with my mom, I’d been loudly admiring a little wind-up doll that played a beautiful song. I’d already requested a fancy present from Santa. I knew my parents would only be buying me clothes. So I figured it was worth letting my siblings know about my interest in the doll, even though it cost $20 which was way out of the range of what my siblings could afford. I was so surprised and delighted to find that doll in the lovingly-wrapped box my sister handed me on Christmas! But I think that she might have been even more delighted than me when she saw how happy I was.
With our own children, my husband and I have carried on this tradition. As a mom, some of my all-time favorite moments have happened as I’ve watched my children’s excitement as they’ve carefully picked out gifts for their siblings, barricaded themselves into a secret spot to wrap those gifts, and then watched with great anticipation as their gifts were opened and appreciated.
Here are 3 Simple Steps to get kids in the Spirit of Giving this holiday season:
1. Work with your children to figure out a Christmas present budget. You may want to look online or check out what’s available at stores to help them get a sense of what types of gifts would be available in different price ranges. Setting a Christmas budget and shopping around for the best prices on gifts is a great and simple step towards teaching our kids real-life economic principles. Of course the budget needs to be somewhat flexible. I’ve loved seeing my children occasionally dip into the funds they were saving for something for themselves or team up with another sibling to buy a perfect gift that costs more than they’d planned to spend. When my children were younger, I found that it worked best to have them buy each others’ gifts at the dollar store where everything is conveniently the same price.
2. Set up a way for your children to earn extra money towards their Christmas budget. Look at the money children have so far (from allowances saved, etc.) and show them a list of jobs they can do around the house to save up extra money. For younger children, you can make a simple chart with a square for every $.25 or $.50 they’ll need to get up to the overall amount they plan to earn and create a list of “money jobs” they can doaround the house to check off each square on their chart (Watch this video to see my twins explain how they learn money toward specific things using a chart: Learning About Earning).
3. Set aside a special time on Christmas or even Christmas Eve for the kids to give out their gifts. This way, your children’s thoughtful gifts will not be overshadowed by grander ones. After all the hoopla of stockings and Santa gifts on Christmas morning, we eat a special Christmas breakfast and then spend a good chunk of time having each child give out their gifts, one at a time. We make a big deal of every gift and ensure that every giver gets a great hug and thank you from the receiver plus praise from us for their thoughtfulness.
We wish you all the best as you strive to give your kids the gift of giving this holiday season!”
April Perry and Saren Loosli are also the Co-Founders and Directors of Power of Moms. April is the mother of four children ages 5 to 13 and Saren is the mother of five children ages 8 to 13–see her in the photo above on the far left sharing gifts with her own siblings years ago.
Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
What were your favorite reads of 2013? I’ll list my Parents picks in the next few days, but today I’ve been having fun with are everyone else’s. Other editors and reviewers from Oprah and The New York Times don’t agree on many of the Best Books of 2013, as you’ll see below. Publisher’s Weekly culled through 9,000 reviews (15 I wrote myself) to come up with their choices–most I haven’t even heard of. So what should you read? I’m thinking about The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner which showed up twice–so did Good Lord Bird. The Interestings gets one nod, and that’s one I loved it this summer.
So stop what you’re doing–work and watching kids can wait. Take time to peruse these awesome reading choices below. I’m sending this list to my book club. (Hi girls!) We need a great new read to ring in 2014.
Oprah’s 10 Best Books of 2013
1.The Isle of Youth
By Laura van den Berg
The gist: A quirky story collection filled with unique and strong female protagonists.
2. Country Girl: A Memoir
By Edna O’Brien
The gist: A memoir by one of Ireland’s most famous fiction writers that has been compared to Angela’s Ashes.
3. The Signature of All Things
By Elizabeth Gilbert
The gist: This one about a strong 19th Century botanist proves that the Eat, Pray, Love writer is at the top of her game. Gilbert makes moss a fascinating subject, I hear.
4. Vampires in the Lemon Grove
By Karen Russell
The gist: This hugely creative collection of short stories–one about a vampire who’s afraid to fly and another about U.S. presidents reincarnated about horses–proves that the author of Swamplandia has staying power.
5. The Flamethrowers
By Rachel Kushner
The gist: The award-winning saga of an electric young woman’s full-throttle pursuit of love amid the class war and cultural upheaval of the late ’70s.
6. The Good Lord Bird
By James McBride
The gist: A slave boy and abolitionist John Brown change the course of American history in this novel that is inspired by real events.
7. The Interestings
By Meg Wolitzer
The gist: Through well-tuned drama and compassionate humor, Wolitzer chronicles the living organism that is friendship, and arcs it over the course of more than 30 years.
8. The Cuckoo’s Calling
By Robert Galbraith
The gist: A book for mystery lovers by J.K. Rowling.
9. Dog Songs
By Mary Oliver
The gist: This Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s combo of woman’s best friend and poetry is irresistible.
10. The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
By Bob Shacochis
The gist: What is the legacy of war—and how long does it last—are the questions behind this brilliant and gripping novel.
Publisher’s Weekly Best Books (gathered in no particular order)
1. See of Hooks
By Lindsay Hill
The gist: “Pure reading pleasure on every single page, not to mention a wallop of pathos.”
2. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief
By Lawrence Wright
The gist: Wright’s prodigiously researched investigation of Scientology does what good reporting ought to do: examine something in search of truth, lay out the findings, and let conclusions be drawn.
3. Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield
By Jeremy Scahill
The gist: The Nation’s national security correspondent surgically exposes how the War on Terror is actually conducted: secret prisons, torture, extralegal assassinations, drone surveillance and warfare, gamesmanship with corrupt regimes.
4. Men We Reaped
By Jesmyn Ward
The gist: Critically acclaimed novelist Ward (Salvage the Bones) bravely enters nonfiction terrain in this starkly honest and deeply tragic account of the deaths of five important men in her life.
5. People in the Trees
By Hanya Yanagihara
The gist: In this novel, a ccientist who, after graduating Harvard medical school in the 1940s, travels to a remote Pacific island chain where he may or may not have stumbled upon the key to immortality.
6. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery
By Robert Kolker
The gist: “Even hardened true crime readers will be haunted by New York magazine contributing editor Kolker’s provocative tale of five young escorts who became linked by the tragic circumstances of their disappearances, and the discovery of their remains on Long Island’s Oak Beach.”
7. Miss Anne in Harlem
By Carla Kaplan
The gist: In this beautifully written, empathetic, and valuable addition to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, scholar Kaplan (Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters) presents the untold story of six notable white women (including Fannie Hurst and Nancy Cunard, members of a larger group known collectively as “Miss Anne”) who embraced black culture—and life—in Harlem in the 1920s and ’30s.
8. Constellation of Vital Phenomena
By Anthony Marra
The gist: A Chechen village, a young girl watching her father taken by Russian soldiers and her house burned to the ground: so begins Marra’s startling debut, in which a tough doctor ponders the extent of her obligation to help Havaa, an eight-year-old girl who has been brought to the doctor’s wretched and abandoned hospital by Akhmed, the girl’s neighbor.
9. The Silence and the Roar
By Nihad Sirees
The gist: “Sirees’s deeply philosophical and satirical novel echoes Kafka and Orwell.”
10. The Good Lord Bird
By James McBride
see details above
The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2013
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
2. The Flamethrowers
By Rachel Kushner
3. The Goldfinch
By Donna Tartt
4. Life After Life
By Kate Atkinson
5. Tenth of December
By George Saunders
6. After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead
By Alan S. Blinder
7. Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House
By Peter Baker
8. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital
By Sheri Fink
9. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
By Christopher Clark
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By Sonali Deraniyagala
Best Books of 2013, Good Lord Bird, Oprah, Publisher's Weekly, The Flamethrowers, the New York Times | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Fiction, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books
Friday, December 6th, 2013
Former Parents.com blogger and current New York Times
bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch
wrote a cool new novel, and of course she wants to tell us about it. In her book, The Theory of Opposites
, she writes about a woman who thinks she has the perfect life–that the stars have aligned for her and her dreams have come true. Then, her husband asks for a “break,” her boss fires her and all hell breaks loose. Read this book for a fun–and sometimes sad–adventure through heartbreak and healing.
What inspired Allison to write this kind of women’s fiction? Find out in her guest blog below:
“What’s the toughest part of parenting for you, dear readers?
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For me, It is accepting that I can’t control everything in my kids’ lives. Not the day to day stuff. I’ve always been a parent who believes that children have to sort out many things on their own, and with a 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, there is plenty to sort out.
Complicated friendships; homework time-management; sticking up for themselves against a not-so-nice kid who sits behind them on the bus; sibling squabbles that could potentially end in broken limbs. These are things that I happily let my kids manage on their own (unless I really do sense that a broken limb is imminent). (more…)