Show Me the Money! By Gigi Collins

These days we can’t live without our smart phones. There’s an app for everything. The latest is the digital wallet. While it may be convenient for adults, it’s not the best way to teach your children about money and financial responsibility.

Think about when you buy something with your credit card versus handing over the cold hard cash. If you are like me, it hurts a little more to count out the money. Swiping the plastic card or waving your phone over the electronic pad doesn’t have the same impact.

If you want to teach your kids and teens about money, start with the green stuff. That’s right, pay allowance in cash. Let your kids learn to count the currency and verify they were paid the correct amount. They can’t do that on a phone app.             piggybank blog

Next, they should split their cash allowance into the three categories that imitates an adult financial plan:

1. Spending: This should be about 70% of their allowance for immediate needs or wants. They can keep their cash safe in a wallet or other container. For teens, you can consider a high school checking account. Take your teen to the bank and have them ask the bank questions about the account such as, balance minimums, check fees, monthly fees, ATM fees, Debit card fees, and any other hidden fees.

2. Savings: This should be about 20% of their allowance for big-ticket items or longer-term goals. They can start a piggy bank or other container. When the cash starts to pile up, take your child or teen to the bank to open a savings account. Have them ask the bank questions about the account such as, balance requirements, number of free deposits and withdrawals allowed, interest rate earned, and any other bank fees.

3. Sharing: This should be about 10% of their allowance. They can start a ‘sharing container.’ With your help, have them set a goal amount that they want to give to a charity of their choice. Research the charity with them to see how they spend their donations. Not all charities are created equal. Charity Navigator is a good place to start your research.

Our kids and teens don’t see enough cash. So, show them the money…the real currency not the digital numbers on the phone app.

By following this plan, you are building a foundation of knowledge about money matters that will help your children manage their finances more effectively for the rest of their lives.

ggc bw

Gigi’s background is investments and financial planning but currently she is living her dream working in her local independent bookshop and writing a YA novel. She has a son in high school and a daughter in college—both have received allowance since they were five!)

Got Tomatoes? Try Drying Them to Enjoy All Winter Long.

I don’t know about you, but as fall arrives, I’m still harvesting tomatoes from my garden.  If you have an abundance of tomatoes still available, why not try drying them to preserve that wonderful sweetness all winter long?  Today, artist, mom, writer, and blog follower  TERESA ROBESON gives us step by step instructions for doing just that.  Here’s Teresa:

Making your own dried tomatoes is so easy and produces a product that is tastier and far less expensive than what you can get at the store!  With a cutting board and some adult supervision, kids can help!

Some people use their ovens to dry tomatoes (directions for that method will follow), but we bought a dehydrator about 20 years ago and it has paid for itself many times over. Hubby did some research and found the Excalibur to be an excellent and reliable brand. We have not had any trouble with ours at all.                  DehydratorWhile you can dry just about any tomato, we have found that cherry or grape tomatoes are better for drying as they’re less watery and therefore dry faster. Any variety will do, but since hubby is not crazy about cloyingly sweet dried tomatoes (and the flavors intensify after all the moisture is gone), he doesn’t grow Super Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes anymore. These days, we grow a combination of less sweet cherries and grape tomatoes.

The dehydrator comes with 9 trays. We slice the cherry or grape tomatoes in half (or even quarters if they’re so large that they stick up too much and run into the tray above it) and space them out evenly on the trays.   Cuttingboard

Then we just slide the trays back into the slots…

…and set the temperature and time as advised by the instruction manual that comes with the dehydrator and let it do its thing.

Trays  Hubby likes to turn the trays around mid-way through drying as the fan is in the back, but sometimes we forget, and it’s been fine, too. Check it when it’s close to the end of the timed cycle; if it’s not at the dryness level you like, just add more time.

Here is the method by oven, shortened and adapted from “The America’s Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook”:

Adjust the oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Preheat to 425F. Spray wire racks with veggie oil spray and set them in 2 rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Toss cut up tomatoes with 1/2 cup olive oil. Place cut side down on prepared wire racks. Roast until skin is a bit wrinkly (20 minutes or so).

For dehydrating larger tomatoes, you can discard the skin and cook for 20-30 minutes more on 300 degrees before flipping over for 3-4 hours more until they’re visibly shrunken, dry and slightly dark around edges.

For smaller tomatoes, I’d just turn the oven down to 300 and cook for 3-4 hours, checking on it every half hour to an hour to make sure they don’t burn.

After removing tomatoes from oven, let them cool to room temperature. Lightly pack them into a jar with tight fitting lids. Cover completely with olive oil and seal the lid. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.   Or, store your dried tomatoes in baggies in the freezer until needed.

And here they are, the beauties!    To use, you can soak them in water or oil for however long it takes to get them to the softness that you want. Pretty easy, right? Beats paying $5 or more for a tiny jar with less than two ounces worth. Plus you know exactly who has handled your food and trust that it was grown and handled to your specifications.

Hope you’ll give it a try!

Teresa Robeson is a writer-artist with published illustrations and works of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction appearing in the SCBWI Bulletin, Ladybug, Babybug, and other magazines and anthologies. She lives on a small hobby homestead with her husband, two boys, and varying number of chickens. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest via the links her website:


Teresa Robeson
writer, artist, illustrator | w:    photo(10)

Wear Blue and Stomp Out Bullying

Wear your favorite BLUE T shirt today to raise awareness of the problem of bullying in schools and online.  BLUE SHIRT DAY was created by STOMP OUT BULLYING in partnership with Pilot Pen and supports anti-bullying education and programs nationwide.

To learn more visit:

The Magic of Childhood Writing Prompts by Katya Szewczuk

Writing prompts are an extremely important part of a childhood development. You might be asking “Why is it so important?” or “What do writing prompts have to do with childhood development?” When children are exposed to writing at a young age they learn to think and create and might learn lessons that you never thought of teaching them.

Not only are writing prompts creative and fun, but you can also use this time to spend with your children or students, and watch them grow productively as time ticks forward.

Examples of Fun Writing Prompts:

There are many writing prompts you can look up on the web by simply searching “writing” or “kid lit prompts”. It’s that easy. But today I’m going to give you three writing prompts that I used to give two young girls whenever I babysat them.

Acting                    11144902_1492257091088191_2572614515094927501_o

These girls lived next to my grandparents and were always outside playing wiffle ball or scooping fish out of their Koi fish pond. Whenever they came over my grandparents’ house, they would bring over a haul of balls and games, itching to play with my sisters and me.

When the game would get out of hand and the girls would get too hyper, I’d sit them down and say, “Now write a story.” This kept them quiet for about ten minutes.  Then they would roughhouse with each other and sometimes toss those wiffle balls at my head. And yes, it left bruises.

So after they wrote their stories I would say, “Now act out the adventure your characters are going on.” The girls would fiddle their thumbs, think for a moment and then run around the yard acting like pirates and dragons. Of course, I was always the dragon.

The Acting Writing Prompt is simple. All you have to do is tell your kids to write a story or simply read them a story and tell them to act out their favorite parts. This will give them a boost of creativity and might even improve their social skills.

Fan Fiction                                                                                 11233346_1492257097754857_6222745024149058394_o

Now as many of you have seen on KidLit TV or even on my YouTube series The Kat’s Meow, I am a huge fangirl of fanfiction. What’s fanfiction? It’s a fan’s version of a work of fiction, and even non-fiction. It’s when your fans write their own stories and create it in the way they wanted the story to end.

When I was young I always changed the endings of stories because I just didn’t think it was right to make the main character win every battle or have Character A get married to Character C instead of Character B. I was very particular about how stories ended so wrote hundreds of fanfictions.

A few years ago fanfiction was actually considered a crime in the literary world. Many authors were extremely stingy about fans changing their book endings. But why? This means your fans were so affected by your book that they had to change the ending.

Fanficiton makes a wonderful writing prompt because you will get the “inside scoop” on how a story left an impact on your kids! It’s also a great writing prompt for teens since the fanfiction world is highly populated by teenagers.


Role-playing is when people act as characters from any type of media, whether it’s literature, film, anime, and even boy bands. Over the years role-playing has become a type of art that is found all over Tumblr. There are over hundreds of role-playing communities where you’ll find at least one person pretending to be Harry Potter or Percy Jackson.

The reason role-playing made it to the list because if you search on Tumblr and you find role-plays from your favorite series, you will see how beautifully written each role-play is. Some role-players should be published authors!

If your child is passionate about a series and loves one character, he or she should start role-playing as that character. The reason for this is because we all have role-played at least once in our lives. Remember dress-up or playing house with your next-door neighbor? That’s role-play.

Children take on a role as a character and make that character go on awesome adventures. The role-playing community is filled with teens who have created beautifully scripted work that shows that they should or probably will become authors one day.

All of these are examples of writing prompts I used whenever I babysat the two girls who are not babies anymore. This blog post is making me feel old! Always remember that there are thousands of writing prompts you can come up with. All it takes is a little time, fun and childhood magic.

Katya Szewczuk                                         IMG_9772
Writer/Editor Kid Lit TV
The Kat’s Meow Host
Personal Assistant to Dr. Anthony L. Manna (Simon & Schuster/ Random House)
Productive Video Arts Designer
Twitter: @katyaszew

And the Winners Are…Free Books and Skype Visits!

First I’d like to thanks all those who participated in the WHEELS OF CHANGE book and Author Skype visit give-away.  I really appreciate your support and am happy to announce two winners: Susan Cohen and the Sacred School in Camden, NJ, and Shiela Fuller on behalf of her daughter’s school where she is currently student teaching.  Both will receive a signed copy of WOC, a teacher packet with curriculum guides and activity sheets, and the Skype Visit at a date of your choice.

The Target Gift Card goes to: Teresa Robeson, along with a teacher packet to pass on to a local school or library.

Congratulations!  And, thanks again for helping me celebrate!  Can’t wait to see you and your classes via Skype!

Writer with a Cause: By Mabel Elizabeth Singletary

I had the pleasure of meeting author Mabel Elizabeth Singletary at a Dyslexia Conference in August.  Her Mightyway Books are all about empowering children to become their best selves and teaching them to honor and respect others.  Here’s Mabel to tell you about her books:

Even as a child growing up in New Jersey, I realized that words, both spoken and written, were powerful. In stories, words can allow a reader to visit places around the globe, provide scores of information, and open doors to unimaginable possibilities. Words carry the ability to change lives for better or worse. I consider my writing a calling, so when I began writing professionally in 2007, I did so with a purpose and a cause. I wanted to create stories that would bring joy, hope, and encouragement to my readers.
Having spent thirty-two years teaching elementary education, I am certain that period of my life allowed me to get an even deeper understanding of the way positive words can influence children. My second grade teacher, Miss Edith Mayner served as both a mentor and role-model for me and so many others. Each day she chose words that inspired and uplifted her classes of young children and enabled us to dream of better futures. In my case, her example ignited my dream to become a teacher. She reminded us every day of what we could become and what we could achieve in life if we actively and always pursued excellence. When that special school year ended, I left her classroom believing I could become whatever I desired.

Many years later, when I had the opportunity to teach language arts and reading, it became clear during class discussions how good stories can leave a lasting impression upon students. So when I began writing The Double Dutch Club Series, I wanted these books to emphasize the importance of children learning that in spite of their differences, they could successfully work together to accomplish shared goals.

Little Sistahs of Somerset.

Little Sistahs of Somerset.

The themes of the books you’ll find at, including the Also Rans Series and The Young Conquerors Series, highlight and focus on friendship, building good character, developing positive self-image, and learning to have compassion for others. Mighty Way’s newest publication entitled; Finding Alan Treadwell deals with the subject of bullying. This story challenges the reader to look a little deeper at the character of a boy named Jimmy, who in every sense of the word is a bullying nightmare.                Finding Alan Pic #2 .jpg for blog

I enjoy writing because it allows me to create stories from an idea and then begin the process of watching that idea grow into a book. Finally, I write because I have witnessed as well as experienced the effect encouraging words can have in bringing about optimism and hope in children’s lives. Speaking to students at schools, libraries, and book clubs has given me opportunities to talk about the main characters and themes of each story. These moments also allow me to hear about the dreams and aspirations of my young readers. Some have even shared that they hope to become writers someday. That is the time when I get to reflect back to the words of my second grade teacher and I can tell them face to face, “With excellence, perseverance, and hard work; you can become whatever you want.”

Writing fiction for children is one of the most amazing and effective ways to have a fruitful impact on tomorrow. And I love every minute of it!

To contact Mabel:
The Roselle Chapter of Oprah's Book Club.

The Roselle Chapter of Oprah’s Book Club.