Shake Off the Winter Blahs.

 I recently visited the Art Museum on the Princeton University campus. It was great for three reasons. First of all, it’s free. There aren’t many places of culture and enlightenment nowadays that can boast that. And, the collection has something for everyone.  There are sculptures and pottery over 4,000 years old, paintings done by ANDY WARHOL, and everything in between.

The third reason it was a great visit is because where else but an art museum provides peace, quiet, and contemplation along with some magnificent objects of beauty? Being in such an environment frees the mind and allows all sorts of creative energy to enter. Writers who are struggling with writer’s block might find inspiration looking at any painting or sculpture, and stories begin to spring into mind. WHY did the artist choose such a subject? WHAT IF the subject were alive today? WHAT would she/he have to say?  The possibilities for story are endless.

Let the kids go on a SCAVENGER HUNT, searching for specific art pieces throughout the day.  Many museums have programs geared specifically for children.

So, if you feel as if you’re in a rut and need some CHANGE to jump start the muse, visit the Princeton University Art Museum – or ANY art museum and let your imagination run wild. Take notes, snap photos and just doodle in a notebook. You never know, it may be the start of something wonderful. artmuseum.princeton.edu

Didn’t someone say “a picture is worth a thousand words?”

Why are Picture Books in Prison? 2.7 Million Reasons…

This is a worthwhile project and a way to pass on some great children’s books your own family may have outgrown.

Michelle Eastman Books

prison

The number of kids with incarcerated parents has increased nearly 80% in the last 20 years, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. More than 2.7 million children have a parent who is incarcerated, and parents of another 10 million children have been incarcerated at some point.  The experience can be profoundly difficult for children, increasing their risk of living in poverty and housing instability, as well as causing emotional trauma, pain, and social stigma.http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/reading-inside

But, through programs like the Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa Storybook Project, some of that stress melts away when kids and parents are able to share a special book together. Through an audio-tape reading program wherein imprisoned parents/grandparents read books to their children/grandchildren on tape, family bonds are strengthened and literacy skills improve as parents encourage their children to read with them and in their absence. Read this touching NY Times…

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VALENTINE TREATS

February Recipe: Sweetheart Pretzel Sticks

To celebrate Valentine’s Day and share a homemade treat with loved ones, your children can make these easy, delicious, chocolate treats.

Ingredients:   I bag of pretzel rods, chocolate morsels, chopped nuts, sprinkles, coconut or whatever toppings you prefer, waxed paper.

Note: (An adult needs to be on hand to monitor use of the microwave for melting the chocolate morsels.)

  1. Place morsels in a microwave-safe dish. Cook on high for 1-2 minutes. Remove and stir. If morsels need more melting, return them the microwave for 30 second intervals until they are melted.
  2. Dip one end of the pretzel rod into the melted chocolate until about 1/3 of it is covered. Place on the waxed paper covered cookie sheet.
  3. Then sprinkle your topping onto the chocolate covered section.
  4. Allow them to harden before wrapping into plastic bags to give as gifts. (For a quicker set time: Pop the logs into the refrigerator for an hour.)

FYI: Not only does chocolate taste great, it actually is good for us. Swiss researchers have found that the polyphenols in dark chocolate curb the body’s output of stress hormones. This helps prevent high blood pressure, racing heart rate, and shallow breathing that can lead to anxiety. Regular consumption of cocoa can also improve physical endurance by 50% due to compounds in it that encourage cell’s ability to convert glucose to energy. Dark chocolate IN SMALL QUANTITIES works best.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! 

Heated Political Battle Led to Frosty Dessert: by Marilyn Ostermiller

Looking for a romantic treat for special someone? You might want to consider whipping up a Baked Alaska, the classic dessert that’s fiery hot on the outside with a melting heart and richly delicious all over.

In it’s traditional form, Baked Alaska is concocted with hard ice cream on a base of sponge cake and covered in a shell of toasted meringue. Plan ahead because the cake must be baked and cooled before topping it with layers of firmly frozen ice cream. Just before it’s time to serve dessert, whip several egg whites into a stiff meringue, spread it completely over the ice cream and cake and place it in a very hot oven for a couple of minutes, until the meringue begins to brown. The trick to making sure the ice cream doesn’t melt is to seal the cake and ice cream with the meringue. Here’s a recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/baked-alaska-recipe.html

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If the classic form is daunting, consider a small version made with brownies that children with some experience in the kitchen can help assemble. This version with easy-to-follow directions comes from Baking Bites, a food blog written by Nicole Weston, a pastry chef, food writer and recipe developer based in Los Angeles, CA http://bakingbites.com/2015/07/brownie-baked-alaska/

Baked Alaska Day is commemorated nationally in February.

According to the National Day Calendar organization, Baked Alaska was created by a celebrity Victorian chef, Charles Ranhofer. The Frenchman was the chef at the swanky Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City in the mid 1860s, where he became notorious for naming new and renaming old dishes after famous people and events.

In 1867, a political debate was raging over the potential purchase of Alaska from Russia. Secretary of State William Seward agreed to a purchase price of $7 million and Alaska became a United States territory. Those who were of the opinion the purchase was a giant mistake referred to the purchase as “Seward’s Folly”.

Capitalizing on the heated controversy surrounding the purchase in the frozen north, Ranhofer’s Baked Alaska fit the bill. It was cold, nearly frozen and quickly toasted in a hot oven prior to serving.

Who knew!?       Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

Anyone out there “daring” enough to try making your own BAKED ALASKA? If you do, send me the photo and I’ll post it here on the blog!

 

Author Annie Silvestro: Why I ♥ Libraries.

I  ♥ Libraries: By Annie Silvestro

Libraries are my very favorite places.  They are special, sacred places of joy and discovery.  Safe places to learn, to engage, to connect, to grow.

Libraries are places filled with magic.

To be a part of the magic, and thus a little bit magic ourselves, all we have to do is enter.

And when we do, the whole entire world – fictional or factual or fantasy – is ours for the taking. With the help of one very important card of course.   bbc-library-card-front

I remember the proud moment when I obtained my very first library card as a child. I felt responsible. Giddy. Powerful! I treasured books and the idea that I could pick any ones I wanted and take them home with me to read brought me immeasurable pleasure. It still does.

Of course for a reader, a library is as enticing as a candy store. For a writer, the library is also an invaluable resource. Libraries expose us to a world of inspiration, to a diversity of voices, to mentor texts modern and classic. Not to mention books about writing and craft and language. The library provides endless opportunities to spark our own imaginations.

The library inspired me to write BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB.    

bbc-cover-from-prh-websiteIn the story, Bunny loves books so much he sneaks into the library to get them. He wants to share in the magic, too.

When Bunny’s friends catch wind of what he’s been up to, they want in on the action. Not only do they want books, they want to choose exactly which ones they’ll read. So off they go to do just that. And who could blame them?

The library contains something for the reader –or writer- in each of us. And if a person (or animal) can’t immediately find that perfect book? The librarian can make a recommendation.

Because they’re a little bit magic, too.

BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB is a love letter to libraries.

My very favorite places.      as-headshot-v3

Annie Silvestro is a lover of books who reads and writes as much as possible and can often be found shuffling piles of them around so she has a place to sit or someplace to put her teacup. Her picture books include BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Doubleday Books for Young Readers), MICE SKATING, illustrated by Teagan White (Sterling, Fall 2017), and THE CHRISTMAS TREE WHO LOVED TRAINS, illustrated by Paola Zakimi (HarperCollins, Fall 2018).

Annie lives by the beach in NJ with her husband and two boys who like to read, and a cat who does not. Visit Annie online at: www.anniesilvestro.com and on Twitter and Instagram: @anniesilvestro

One lucky reader can win a signed copy of BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB! To enter, leave a comment below.  Darlene will put your name in a hat.  If you share this post on FB or Tweet it on Twitter, she will add your name again (Just let her know what you did).  US RESIDENTS ONLY, PLEASE.  Winner will be announced here on 2-15-17.

 

 

 

 

Home Schooling Ins and Outs: Things to Consider by Maureen Lasher Morris

Last week Maureen talked about how she came to be a home school-er with her children and grandchildren.  Today she will share her tips for what to think about if you decide Home Schooling might be for you and your family.  Here’s Maureen with part 2 of her series.

  • There is a plethora of information and support available for homeschooling families. It has become commonplace within many groups. Some home school for religious reasons, while others do not want their child going to the local school for any of a variety of reasons. Some schools offer a duel enrollment where your child attends school for certain classes and is home for others. Many districts provide enrollment in the community college paid for by the district. Some school districts are more supportive of homeschooling than others. The district I live in provides many resources for home schoolers. I would suggest that you check with your local district to see what they offer. The requirements vary from district to district also so it is a good idea to check and see what they are for your area.
  • With homeschooling, the program can be tailored to fit each individual child’s needs, abilities and interests.
  • There are many curriculum choices out there. Online schools are one way to start if you are nervous and unsure of how to begin (K-12 is a very well put together program that works within local school districts, just for an example). These programs provide ongoing support from an actual teacher. They provide the required testing for each state and also offer special education services if needed. They follow the school year and are considered a part of the school district not home school even though all the work is completed at home.
  • Many religious affiliations offer curriculum that corresponds to their specific beliefs and teachings. Some programs have a specific emphasis on science or math. The choices are many.
  • Some prefer to put their own program together. I would not recommend this but it does work for some. It is a lot of work and one thing to be aware of is the requirements that colleges and universities have regarding homeschooling. The program I used was an accredited one that was very rigorous in its materials. The accreditation is important because those schools provide a school number used in ACT and SAT testing and college applications. Without the accredited school number, the homeschooling provider needs to account for each class by giving the text used, date of text, author, etc. for high school. Hours of schooling needs to be regulated as well and documentation is important to show proof of what was taught. As a teacher, I felt that I did not need to reinvent the wheel and picked a curriculum that fit with my beliefs and standards.
  • I would recommend joining a support group both for your own help, and also for socialization for your child. These groups often provide classes, field trips, and fun activities. Colorado Springs has a very large home school presence. One of the support programs offered provided classes for specific higher level subjects such as chemistry and calculus. I took advantage of these since there were several areas of content that I was not comfortable in teaching. It so happened that Colorado Springs is home to the Air Force Academy and my son’s chemistry teacher was a retired chemistry teacher from the academy. My children also took classes in dance, puppet-making, acting, rock climbing, among others.
  • I also hired a private tutor for some of the higher-level math classes. She was very reasonable and worth every penny. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Another thing that I was able to do was trade for services. I taught sign language in return for help with physics for my son.
  • One of the most important things for me with homeschooling is keeping a schedule. We start the same time every day. The routine is helpful to both my children and myself. It gives a sense of importance to what we are doing. Another thing I feel strongly about is that my child get dressed and ready for school as if he/she were going to an actual brick and mortar school.  If they stayed in pajamas, with uncombed hair, etc.… then their schoolwork was not taken seriously.  
  • It is also good to have a designated area for school. I use my dining room which contains several bookcases, a chalkboard, a whiteboard, work table and 3 computer stations. On the rare occasion that I actually use the room for dining, the table is adjustable and works fine. Any space works fine, but try to make sure that the distractions are minimal.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
  • I also have what I called non-negotiables. These were what we did regardless of what was happening or going on that day. My non-negotiables were reading, writing and math. School is the priority but occasionally things come up at home the same way they come up at school. Many days while a teacher there were events that occurred and prevented a normal day of teaching.
  • There are many resources available online. There are also several places where you can get extra materials. Teacher stores are an excellent resource. Colorado Springs has two teacher supply stores which are filled with a variety of materials that are helpful to the home schooled family. I enjoy browsing through these and picking up colorful charts, flashcards, etc. even though the program I use sends me everything I need: books, workbooks, answer keys, science kits, even handwriting paper. Some of the online programs provide computers and a stipend for internet access.
  • Another resource that I use regularly is the library. Our library has a special program specifically for home schooled students. They offer something different each month.
  • Home schooled students are also eligible to participate in sports from the school that they would be attending if they were at school. My daughter swam for all fours years in high school and received a scholarship to swim at college. My son played baseball at the high school.
  • One of the criticisms that I often hear is the lack of socialization. This always makes me laugh because my children who home schooled were much more sociable and equally comfortable with adults as their peers than my children who attended school. They have become well-rounded adults, articulate, poised and confident in their abilities.
  • Do not be afraid to take on this challenge if you feel that this is right for your family. There is so much support available and it will be worth the hard word and challenges. It is a great way to develop close bonds with your child that will last a lifetime.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The following are some resources for homeschooling families:

A resource from PBS – http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/homeschooling/homeschooling-resource-list/

This site has resources available state by state – http://www.homeschool.com/resources/

This one is from Parents Magazine with many resources listed _ http://www.parents.com/kids/education/home-schooling/best-homeschooling-resources-online/

This site from The Pioneer Woman has links to printable materials such as flash cards and worksheets – http://thepioneerwoman.com/homeschooling/free-online-educational-resources/