About darlenebeckjacobson

I am a freelance writer and Children's Author. I've also worked in the field of education for over thirty years.

Ever See a Crab in the Forest?

  NATURE MAKES US NICER.

A study done by the U. of Rochester, 370 people were shown either images of man-made or natural objects and worked in space with or without indoor plants. Images of nature and indoor plants made people feel more connected, more caring and charitable toward others. Man-made images made people place more value on wealth and fame. Other research tells us that exposure to nature reduces stress.
So, if you’re looking for a gift that keeps on giving, try plants and photos of natural settings to help you through the dreary days of winter. Visit parks and natural areas as often as you can.
To view beautiful photos of nature click on Travel + Nature at:   http://www.treehugger.com
Spring is just around the corner!

To get children interested in nature, take them            

Boston Arboretum

Boston Arboretum

outdoors. It doesn’t have to be a park or forest. A playground, back yard or grassy field will do nicely. Get down on your knees and look for things hiding in the grass and under leaves and rocks. Most children have a natural curiosity when it comes to bugs, birds, and wild creatures. If you’re a bit squeamish regarding members of the insect population, try not to project those feelings onto your child.  Most bugs and insects are harmless and fascinating to watch as they go about their business. A magnifying glass will add a level of “scientific authority” to the activity. It’s also fun to take along a camera or some paper and pencil to record what you discover. Have a contest for whoever can find the most different species.

Buds are springing up from the ground and on trees thanks to our mild winter.  How many can you and your child identify?  There are lots of field guides available to help you identify plants and insects.                             Triple oaks spiderWhat are some of your favorite natural spaces?

Remember: “Take only photos, leave only footprints

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: A Chat with Annie Silvestro in Celebration of the Release of her Debut Picture Book BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB!

Laura Sassi Tales

bunnys-book-club-cover

Today I’m delighted to have children’s author, Annie Silvestro, as my guest. Annie and I met several years ago at the NJSCBWI annual conference and I’ve enjoyed following her (and cheering her on) in her writing journey.  Her debut picture book BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss and published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers, releases this month. The story of a book-loving bunny who sneaks into the town library and borrows books for all his forest friends, KIRKUS REVIEWS hails BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB as a “sweet salute to reading” . And in its review, PUBLISHERS’ WEEKLY states that Annie “makes the pleasures of reading abundantly clear.”  What’s abundantly clear to me is that Annie has a gift for charming storytelling. Welcome, Annie and let’s get started.

Your love of language is evident in BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB. How was that love developed?

Thank you for saying that! I have always been a reader and my love of language…

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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

photos-library

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!