Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nancy Drew: The Clue of the Broken Locket

Book Name: The Clue of the Broken Locket
Submitted by: Kendall (12 yrs old)
Rating: 8
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Description: This is the 11th book in the original Nancy Drew series. Nancy Drew is an 18-yr-old detective. Her father is a lawyer. She has two best friends, Bess and George, who are cousins that often help Nancy solve her mysteries.

Review: Nancy Drew is challenged to find out what is going on at the lodge across the lake from where she is staying. She is also challenged to find a hidden family treasure - with her only clue a broken locket.

I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed all the other books in the Nancy Drew series.

Special thanks to my daughter for writing this review for me :)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Back to School: 5 Show and Tell Favorites

Some kids can’t wait to go back to school to be with their friends and talk about what they did over summer vacation. While others dread going back because they loved being home, spending time with the family, and engaging in all kinds of activities.

Once back at school, however, kids settle in pretty quickly and look forward to learning new things and making new friends. One of the activities most kids look forward to is when they are asked to bring in something special for “Show and Tell” day.

This is a special day for them because they have an opportunity to tell the other kids in their class all about this one item that obviously holds a great memory from the summer.

What are some of the things kids may bring into school for show and tell? Here is a list of some of their “favorite things.”

  1. Bobby may bring in a baseball signed by his favorite ballplayer and tells the class how he was able to obtain it and the signature.
  2. Betsy may have gone to Disneyworld over the summer and brought in a scrapbook she created with pictures to show the class.
  3. Teddy loves NASCAR racing, and he brings in his favorite replica of the winning car while discussing the race and driver.
  4. Jenny has a favorite stuffed teddy bear and she tells the class why it’s her favorite and how she chose the bear’s special name.
  5. Johnny brings in an unusual rock which he found when camping with his had. He talks about why the rock is special and why nature is so important.

While it’s fun for kids who share stories about their favorite toys, stuffed animals, adventures, vacations, pets, dolls, magic tricks, and scrapbooks; it’s also part of the socialization process. For kids who are shy, standing up in front of a class and talking about what they brought to school can increase their self-esteem.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Pizza Biscuits

Looking for something to put in the kid's lunchbox this fall? This pizza biscuit recipe is great to make ahead and store in aluminum foil - perfect fit for the lunchbox. You can also substitute any of your child's favorite pizza toppers in the ingredients!

1/4 pound sliced pepperoni
1 (14 ounce) can pizza sauce
2 (12 ounce) packages refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough
1/2 onion, sliced and separated into rings (optional)
1 (4.5 ounce) can sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Cut biscuits in half and lay in a single layer in bottom of baking dish. Spread pizza sauce over the biscuits. Layer pepperoni slices over top of biscuits. Place onions and mushrooms on top. Place uncovered in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and layer cheeses on top. Return to the oven and continue baking for 10 minutes or until cheese is completely melted.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Keep Your Teen Safe on the Road

The time has come! Your teen has just received his license and the worry begins. Summertime is here and that means your teen will be spending more time on the road.

Here are some tips for keeping your teen safe on the road this summer and beyond:

  • Set ground rules as to when your teen can use the car. Daytime driving in the beginning, at least for the first six months; then gradually allow your teen to drive at night; but only up until a certain hour.
  • Teach by example. Don't: drive and use a cell phone; eat while driving; tailgate or speed; invoke any road rage when driving; drink and drive.
  • Wearing seat belts is a law; therefore, follow all of the rules and regulations taught in driving school. Your teen will take note, and follow your lead.
  • Limit the areas where your teen can drive, at least until he or she has been driving for a while.
  • Do not allow any passengers in the car for at least six months. They need to understand the rules of the road, and not engage in conversation with friends. These can ultimately distract them causing an accident.
  • Ensure your car is well maintained. Check the following regularly: tires; windshield wiper fluid; water; brakes; windshield wipers, etc.
  • Accompany them as much as possible in the beginning; pointing out hazards they may come across such as potholes, construction, and the like. Mix up the routes so they become used to driving to different places.
  • Take your teen to the gas station. Teach them how to pump the gas and which type to use in your car. Teach them how to put air in the tires as well.
  • If you don’t already have one, purchase an emergency road kit, and explain each item to the teen.
  • Teach your teen how to change a tire, how to use road flares, and what to do in an emergency.

These tips for keeping your teen safe on the road this summer probably need to be mentioned often to help them remember. Another thing to point out is that while they are a safe driver, others on the road may not be.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Homemade Tootsie Rolls

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons orange extract
About 75 squares of colored foil or cellophane

Place chocolate in a microwave bowl. Microwave on high heat until chocolate is completely melted, stirring occasionally. Once chocolate is melted remove from microwave and stir in the syrup, water and extract. Be sure to blend well. Using a large cookie sheet lined with plastic wrap spread chocolate mixture out about 1 inch thick. Cover and leave out overnight. Chocolate should be easy to work with but slightly stiff. Grab the plastic wrap by the sides and lift chocolate out of pan, Remove the plastic. Use a sharp knife and cut chocolate into strips about one inch apart. Using your hand roll the chocolate into a tootsie roll. Cut your chocolate roll to desired size. The chocolate will soften some in handling. Allow to stiffen up a little before wrapping. Wrap in cellophane and twist ends.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Back to School: Bus Stop Safety Tips

All parents whose children take the bus to school want to ensure they will arrive safely. However, there can be times when safety becomes an issue, especially at bus stops. Here are some tips to guarantee your child will be safe not only walking to the bus stop, but before and after the bus arrives.

  • Children should be told not to run to catch any bus. Leaving early will avoid missing the bus and any chance of a child falling because they are in a hurry.
  • Stay well away from the curb when standing at a bus stop.
  • When walking to the bus stop with other children, do not play or run around in the street.
  • All children under 12 should be accompanied by another adult or older sibling when walking to the bus stop. In addition, waiting with the child until they safely board the school bus is recommended.
  • Children should be told not to talk to any strangers at the bus stop.
  • Children should be warned that if anyone in a car stops and calls them over, they should run away screaming.
  • Children who are approached by anyone for any reason should report the incident to the bus driver.
  • Children should be told not to shove other kids onto the bus. Board the bus slowly and in a single file.

The fact that schools do not take responsibility until the moment the children boards the school bus is a major factor in ensuring the child is safe before arriving to school. In addition, in some states where children are picked up by school buses, care has to be taken to avoid any injury to the child.

Oftentimes buses stop in the middle of a street, double-park, or stop away from a child’s home. Children should be told to look both ways before boarding the bus in these instances since some school buses have the automated stop sign which signal other vehicles to stop, and others do not.

These bus safety tips are just some ways in which children need to be made aware of situations which may occur when waiting for the school bus to arrive.

Wine - Getting to Know the Differences

Did you know having a glass of red wine a day is a healthy part of your diet regimen? Do you also know what wines compliment foods best? If not, here are some tips and suggestions on a wine for every meal.

Traditionally, red wine can be used for poultry, beef, veal, ham, pasta, lamb and pork.
What kind of wine? For poultry, ham, pork and veal, try a red Zinfandel or Beaujolais. For beef, pasta and lamb; a cabernet sauvignon or merlot would suffice.

White chardonnay would compliment strong cheeses, pork, poultry and seafood, including shellfish. A white Zinfandel or rose wine could accompany appetizers, mild cheeses, desserts, ham, lamb, poultry and seafood. Sparkling wine such as Spumante or Champagne could also be served with appetizers, mild cheeses and desserts. The rule of thumb when serving wine for a particular meal is selecting a light-bodied wine with lighter food and a full-bodied wine with heartier, flavorful dishes.

In addition, here are some suggestions on how to serve wine. First, quickly chill the wine by placing the bottle in a bucket of ice water for ten minutes, rather than in the freezer. Chill sparkling wine in the refrigerator for at least four hours before serving, or chill in ice water for twenty to thirty minutes. When filling a wine glass, you need to allow the wine to breathe; thus, filling it half way is suggested.

If you still have a problem deciding on what wines to service with your meals, here is a safe bet. When choosing white wines, pick out a Pinot Grigio (deliciously light and dry);
Sauvignon Blanc; Riesling; or Champagne (only for the most suitable occasions), and other Sparking wines. Rose wines can include White Zinfandel; and Red wines can include Beaujolis, Pinot Noir and Merlot (which is full-bodied wine perfect for any pasta dish as well).

Remember, you don’t have to spend a fortune on wine. A simple Pinot or Merlot will suffice, and both are affordable.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tortilla Chili and Cheese Dip

This is a great dish to take as an appetizer for a neighborhood party - it's easy and everybody LOVES it!

1 lb. cream cheese, softened
2 16-oz. cans chili (with or without beans and meat)
1 lb. shredded cheese (flavor of your choice)
1 bag tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Using a 9X 13" baking pan, spread cream cheese on the bottom. Create one layer with chili followed by shredded cheese to cover the top. (To make more, double recipe and layer twice) Place pan in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese has melted. Serve with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pretty Pretty Princess Dress-Up Board Game

Product Name: Pretty Pretty Princess Dress-Up Board Game by Hasbro
Submitted by: Faith Martin; Howard, PA
Rating: 10+
Where to Buy: Amazon.com

Description: The object of this game is to be the first player to collect and wear all your matching colored jewelry and the crown. Once you have collected all your pieces with the crown, you are the Pretty Pretty Princess.

Review: This game is so simple . . . children do not have to be able to read to play. Although, if you have a child who likes to stick small objects in his/her mouth, you may want to wait until he/she is a bit older (small pieces). You may notice I referred to boys as well . . . this is the ONLY game I know of that you can get a grown man to wear costume jewelry. This is what makes this game so much fun. We have owned this game for a little over a year now. I have watched my 6 year old daughter play this game with her dad, her 8 year old brother, and her 68 year old grandfather. I never once heard any of the "boys" complain about having to adorn the beautiful jewelry. I have, however, heard groans when they didn't become the Pretty Pretty Princess. So, grab your daughters, sons, and a few good men for a good time, plenty of laughs, and photo ops. And, my daughter is not the only one who requests to play this game. Enough said.

Here is how the game is played . . . You place your colored marker anywhere on the board to start. The youngest player gets to go first, of course. When it is your turn, you spin the spinner and move your marker that number of spaces on the board. The spaces on the board are marked with pictures of the various pieces of jewelry. Whatever you land on is the piece you
collect (in your color) and wear. The plastic play jewelry includes rings, clip-on earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. I think the hardest pieces to acquire are the earrings, because you are only allowed to take one at a time. So, remember this when you land on a space that says you may choose any piece you want.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, watch out for that black ring! For even if you have collected all your pieces and the crown, you cannot win the game until you have rid yourself of the dreaded black ring. This can only be done if someone else lands on the black ring space or if you land on the space that tells you to put one piece back.

The playing pieces, jewelry, and crown are easily stored in a round jewelry box that is placed in the middle of the playing board (a 4-piece puzzle assembled). The lid of the jewelry box has a mirror on the outside and a spinner on the inside. So, once your royal highness is crowned the winner, he/she may flip the spinner over to gaze at his/her magnificence in the mirror. We often continue play to see who will be the "lady-in-waiting".

This game was well thought out by its creators. It is easy to set up, progresses quickly, and promotes well-being through healthy laughter.

Oops . . . I almost forgot. Don't think you are safe once you have attained the crown. Your fierce opponents have the right to seize the crown from your head during play unless you have already been proclaimed the winner.

Criticism: One minute problem - some players prefer not to wear the earrings (usually the children due to a comfort issue with the clip-ons). However, the earrings can be placed in front of the player or clipped onto his/her necklace.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

5 Tips to Help Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

For many of us this day just seems to rush up on us. We’ve known for years that our babies will be going to kindergarten but when the time comes, many of us are unprepared. It’s definitely an emotional time for both parents and kids but it’s important to help our little ones through this time by staying positive and upbeat.

Here are some tips for helping prepare your child for kindergarten:

  1. Talk about the new change – Children tend to deal well with change as long as we explain to them what is happening. Before starting have little talks with your child about what going to “big kid” school will be like, what the routine will be and so on. Try to have these talks in short spurts as your child may not be able to process too much information at once and may get more confused. Lots of little talks here and there should do the trick.

  2. Show them their new school – Many schools will have introduction days your child can attend ahead of time to meet their new teacher and see the school. You can also take them for a drive or walk to their new school a couple of times before starting. Show them where they will go and where mommy will pick them up after school.

  3. Read a book – Visit your library for a selection of books on starting school, many also have videos and DVDs. Sit with your child and read the book or watch the video and explain how they will be doing something similar when school starts.

  4. Go Shopping – Go school shopping with them and let them be involved in the process of choosing their school supplies, lunch box and even clothes or uniform where appropriate. Let your child feel that he or she is older and can now choose some of their own things.

  5. Draw a Picture – Once you visit the new school have your child draw a picture of themselves at their new school. You may even be able to tell what your child is feeling by what he draws. Talk about the picture and how your child is feeling and then hang the picture up in a prominent place to remind everyone that school will be starting soon.

Above all remain light-hearted and upbeat even if you are feeling a little bit weepy yourself. Talk in a positive way of how much fun school will be and enjoy this milestone with your little one.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Insulated Kids Animal Lunch Box

Product Name: Insulated Kids Animal Lunch Box
Rating: 10
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Description: These adorable kids lunch boxes are great. They are made of Insulated PVC and come in various animal designs.

Review: Your child will love taking this cute lunch box with them wherever they go.

The lunch box itself is made of PVC making it very easy to fold and store. Cleaning is a breeze also. Just use a damp cloth and wipe clean.

It is very lightweight so it’s easy for your child to handle. There is a shoulder strap or a handhold to make it even easier for your child.

There are six different animal designs. They come in a duck, frog, dog, ladybug, elephant or penguin design. So, if your little one has a special animal they like you will probably find the right one just for them.

It is also great for those first graders who can be a little skeptical about taking their lunch to school. Being able to take an “old friend” like a dog with them will relieve some of the leeriness they can feel.

It is also well insulated to keep things cold. That makes it great for taking snacks and drinks on a long drive or even to Grandma’s house. They are wonderful to take on a picnic too. Your kids will love this lunch box made just for them.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bagels and Egg Casserole


3 plain bagels (thinly sliced)
12 eggs (beaten)
1/2 pound cooked ham (diced)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter


Place butter in heavy skillet. Add ham and onion. Sauté over low heat until tender (approximately 2 minutes). Set aside. Slice each bagel into 4 thin slices. Arrange 6 bagel slices at bottom of lightly greased baking dish. Top bagels with ham and onion mixture. Then top with cheddar cheese. Finally top with remaining bagel slices. In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, milk, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the egg mixture over the bagel layers. Bake at 375F for approximately 30 minutes or until eggs are firm and cooked through.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Homeschool Help: State Study - 50 States Complete Set

Product Name: State Study - 50 States Complete Notebooking Set with Bonus Pages
Rating: 10
Where to buy: Homeschool estore

Description: A complete notebook set of the fifty states. This notebook contains facts about each of our fifty states plus a bonus set that includes 13 colonies, national parks, monuments and memorials, Washington DC and much more.

Review: I was overjoyed with this set. I needed something to help in teaching my children about where they live and the United States in general. This was perfect for my needs. It will help my children from preschool through their high school years.

This set tells about each of our states. It includes information on topic ideas, directions, state facts and more. There are templates that you can use, some of which are blank so your children can create the own ideas. My favorite was the State Symbol pages. These templates allowed my children do draw the State Symbols the way they saw them.

There are also cutouts and graphics included with each individual state. These were very helpful for my children also. It helped them design their own notebooks on each of the states.

These can be bought individually or as the set on CD. You can also go to the site and download all the information. I preferred the CD but for some of us the download is just as simple.

If you are looking for a great teaching guide at a reasonable price I recommend this set. I wouldn’t be without it for my children.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Back to School: Should I Send My Child to Preschool?

Deciding whether or not to send your child to preschool is a question only you can answer because you know your child better than anyone. There are certain criteria, however, which can determine whether or not your child might be ready for preschool.

Research indicates that most preschoolers begin between the ages of two and four, and while it seems very young, it is nonetheless an important starting point in your child’s educational experience.

Here are some readiness tips for you to consider:

  • Your child can speak in short sentences
  • Your child can be understood by others
  • Your child exhibits listening skills
  • Your child is able to follow simple directions
  • Your child gets along with other children and can participate in play groups without incident
  • Your child can pay attention to the teacher
  • Your child can sit quietly and focus on an assigned project
  • Your child does not have separation anxiety - a little is normal, but crying for longer than a half hour shows signs of not being ready.

The age at which you send your child to preschool can only be determined by you and your assessment as to whether or not the child is ready, capable of listening and taking direction, playing with other children, sharing, and interacting in a friendly and polite manner.

You may not choose to send your child to preschool at such an early age, which is absolutely fine. You can begin teaching your child at home, and when you feel the child is physically and emotionally ready, a decision can then be made. There is no age defined time nor any law that says you have to commit to preschool at the tender age of two.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pea Salad

1 cup fresh pea pods
8 ounces dried elbow macaroni
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup horseradish mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
2 tablespoons chopped onion

Boil macaroni until tender. Add peas to boiling water for one minute. Drain macaroni and peas and rinse with cold water. Combine, mayonnaise (salad dressing), sour cream, mustard, milk, garlic and salt and pepper in a bowl to create dressing. Set dressing to the side. In a large bowl combine macaroni and peas with the celery and onions. Pour dressing mixture over and stir until coated well. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. When ready to serve, stir and add one to two tablespoons of milk if desired.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Back to School: Setting Rules Before the School Year Begins

Before teens begin to prepare for the new school year, it is important to set boundaries beforehand so they know what is expected of them as they continue on with their high school studies.

Curfew: A specific curfew should be set on school nights and weekends, especially if there are tests involved or they haven’t caught up with homework assignments, reports, or papers. If the teen does go out with friends, the parent should be told where he or she is going, and who will be accompanying them.

Homework: A certain amount of time should be allotted to homework and studying. No TV, video games, music, telephone conversations, or any other distraction should be present when teens study and/or work on their homework assignments.

After-School Employment: There are some teens who would like to earn extra cash, and working after school for a few hours a day might be considered. However, if it interferes with school work, or they begin putting in too much overtime, an alternative arrangement has to be made so that high school studies come before anything else.

Sleepovers: If your teen asks to stay at a friend’s house on the weekend, a curfew should be set in place and the parents of the other teen should be informed as well. In addition, unless a parent is present, it is recommended that your teen not be allowed to spend the night.

Report Cards: If a teen brings home a report card that signifies he or she is not doing well in all subjects, perhaps it would be time to discuss the reasons why the grades are low and find ways they can be improved. In the course of the discussion, perhaps your teen will open up and tell you about a certain problem or issue.

The teen years are fraught with self-image problems, physical and emotional problems, and anger and frustration. It is recommended that parents keep the lines of communication open with their teens. To let them know they understand and will always be available to listen or give advice if asked.

Remembering what it was like being a teenager, some may say it was great while others may say “it was no picnic.” Either way, teens need to feel safe, yet have room to breathe and grow. Though teens would never admit that parameters are a good thing, preparing and setting boundaries for the new school year is one way in which parents can help.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Lemonade Stand Lemonade

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Juice from 4-6 lemons
4 cups cold sparkling water or plain water

Mix together one cup water with one cup of sugar in small pot. Heat mixture to boiling, stirring constantly until sugar is completely dissolved. Allow water and sugar mixture to cool, pour in pitcher or bowl and refrigerate. Once the mixture has reached desired coldness, add juice from lemons and stir completely. (Strain lemon juice if desired) Mix four cups of cold water into lemonade and pour in pitcher adding lemon slices if you prefer.

Servings: Approximately 6

Make one batch and freeze into ice cubes to add to lemonade prior to serving to keep this drink from becoming watered down.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Summer Time: Water Safety

Beaches and pools are synonymous with summer. However, the fact is that 90% of all kids who drown are under four years of age; and this is just in backyard pools. To make this an enjoyable and safe summer, here are summer safety tips:

  • Make sure you lock the entrance to the pool and that it is fenced in, so the kids can’t access it.
  • After your children are finished playing in the wading pool, drain it, and store it away.
  • Always have a cell phone available near the pool.
  • When at the beach, only swim where lifeguards are visible.
  • Stay out of the water if you notice strong winds.
  • Always stay within sight of the lifeguard. Be aware of any signs posted on the beach regarding restricted areas.
  • If you see a lifeguard signaling you to come out of the water, do so immediately.
  • If you use a flotation device, ensure you are in control of it.
  • If you bring your kids to the beach, always keep them close, and within sight.
  • If you are not a good swimmer, stay close to shore.
  • Be aware of riptides that can pull you out to sea.
  • Keep your eyes open for jellyfish, or other dangerous sea animals.
  • If you see someone who is drowning, alert the lifeguard right away.
  • It would be advantageous to take a CPR course, in case of a potential drowning.
  • If you have toys in your backyard pool, make sure you take them out, and put them away.
  • Buy flotation devices for your kids.

No matter how diligent you may be, there is always the possibility of something going wrong. Whether enjoying the pool or the beach, it just takes a matter of minutes for any type of situation to emerge. Be careful, be cautious, and watch your kids like a hawk!

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Okay - enough slacking. I was on a vacation this past week with my family. We drove up to PA to my parent's house and met my brother with his 3 kids. We had a blast! The weather was great and the kids had a terrific time...not to mention the excellent time with Grandma and Grandpa!

But now, alas, we have returned and I have to get back to work. I apologize for the lapse in posting, but everybody's got to have some "down time." So, between unpacking, laundry and grocery shopping, I vow to update my blog this weekend and get some cool tips coming your way!