The Joy of Giving Back Can Lead to Better Health.

This time of year we are often bombarded with mail asking for help for various charities. I know everyone has his or her own favorites. If you are looking for a different way to get your kids involved and to teach them the importance of generosity, there are some organizations devoted to health and well-being. Not only does giving to others make us feel good, it actually increases activity in the brain’s reward region.

Here are a few you might consider:

A TEN DOLLAR donation to the Pan Foundation will provide a day of medicine to someone in need. The organization also helps those with chronic, rare, and life-threatening conditions get treatment.

Your donation of TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS will teach one kid to cook for life. COMMON THREADS teaches families about nutrition and how to choose healthier food and cook delicious meals.

For FIFTY DOLLARS you can supply 20 US families with clean water.  WORLD VISION will deliver bottled water and filtration systems to US families who lack it.

May good health and prosperity be yours in 2021.


PIPPIN PALS ARE HERO HELPERS! by :Donna Marie. A New Series To Answer Kids Questions About the Pandemic. Enter to Win A Book!

Today it is my pleasure to feature a timely new book series that answers children’s questions about the pandemic. Written by Donna Marie PIPPIN PALS ARE HERO HELPERS. Here’s Donna to explain:

 What prompted the writing of this timely book?   

Back in March, when this pandemic really hit the U.S., I was glued to my Twitter feed and CNN; not all that much different than regular days, but with much more intensity. I was blown away by the KidLit community, from publishers on down, along with librarians and teachers when, very early on, they were offering all kinds of amazing things to families with children to help them get through the whole stay-at-home situation. I really wanted to contribute, but it took days before my foggy brain pulled up a book around 1993ish. It was called The Rainy Day. In it were ideas of what to do on a rainy day. I first thought to post the list of things to do on my blog, but nixed the idea just as quickly because it really wouldn’t offer more than what was already out there, so why waste my time? Then I thought maybe to rewrite the story’s beginning and post it on my site with a few of the dummy illustrations. Once I began writing, I ended up with an almost totally new story.

You did a perfect job of showing something scary in a safe and non-threatening way. How did you decide on the format of rhyming text?

Such high praise! Thank you, Darlene! And you’re right—it’s scary. The Rainy Day was written in rhyme (which comes naturally with most of my picture books) so I started there. I kept it in rhyme because the musical quality of it helps soften such hard subject matter, and I felt it might keep younger children more engaged. I did my best to explain, and also show through illustration, something as abstract as a virus as best I could, and depict what children are witnessing going on around them in a way they could understand. They are being asked to comply with unusual rules and much of their normal lifestyles have been upended. It’s hard enough for us adults to adjust, let alone kids!

I love how the book can be personalized so that children of color can see themselves in the pages. Explain how that came about in your illustration process.

Ah, well, THAT is why this story ended up actually becoming books and not just a blog post. As timing would have it, last fall I became aware that Shutterfly accepted unsolicited submissions. In researching, I saw how they really expanded how personalized customer’s could make their books by picking more than just their name. They could sometimes choose the main character’s gender, skin color and hair. Wanting to submit to them, I figured out a way to create a book that could include my six diverse characters. I wrote a story that would work with the personalization, but in the midst of it I found out Shutterfly closed book submissions due to administrative changes. I lost that project, BUT, as often is the case—the creative process wasn’t in vain. My having come up with a way to make the same book with interchangeable characters for diversity’s sake, when it dawned on me that I could do that digitally and could publish them as ebooks on Amazon, I was “sold.” Once I realized I had the power to execute these books, there was no stopping me! And now that I finally accomplished the publishing part, once I have promo behind me, I plan to create 2 more inclusive versions 🙂

What is your hope for this book?
Having to do things like stay physically distant, wear masks and wash hands often does not come naturally to most people, and getting kids to comply is not easy. Being compliant is not only critically important to help contain the spread of the virus, but it’s also the right thing to do. Caring about others should come easily, but doesn’t always, and children need to learn this at a young age. The seriousness of a global pandemic is certainly a time to set this example. By doing these basic, simple things we help ourselves, the people around us, and ultimately the heroic, essential workers. I’ve always felt that, especially with young children, they learn—and listen—when tasks and lessons are presented as “fun” or a “game.” Blending that with their penchant to often emulate or want to “be” Superheroes (and princesses), I believe it helps them understand that they are “heroes” by being Hero Helpers. I think it’s appealing in a way that helps reinforce these new “super power” habits we’re trying to instill.


I’d also like to encourage parents, teachers, doctors—anyone—to go to the website I created specifically to share free downloads. I originally wanted to include hand-washing and mask-wearing instructions in the book itself, but that really didn’t work for the storytelling, and couldn’t add pages for that purpose, at least not initially. That’s when I decided to create a website and know the value of having printed instructional material. You will find an array of kid-friendly, printable downloads to post anywhere from bathrooms to kitchens to bedrooms to classrooms to doctor’s offices and more, that could serve as useful tools to instruct and reinforce these habits. I made them in both 8 ½ x 11” and 11 x 17” sizes for this purpose.

PURCHASE LINKS for Amazon and Apple Books ebook and paperback versions of Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers! are on Donna’s website:  Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers! Books. Just remember—all versions are the same story; you just pick the character/s that suit the readers best. And one lucky reader can win a copy of the version of their choice by leaving a comment below. One random winner will be drawn from all who enter and announced in a later post.

You can follow :Donna on Twitter and Facebook, and her Writer Side UP! and Creativity “Cookbook” blogs, and Pippin Pals at  , Twitter and Facebook   COMING SOON: 2 more inclusive versions of Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers!: one interracial family, one with same-sex parents.

Throughout her life, :Donna Marie has had many jobs and pastimes. Just to name a few: cashier, bartender, waitress, a wide array of art jobs, party planner, clown and face painter, and A.R.A. for the NJSCBWI, some of which could be fun, none of which could be classified as a passion. The one consistent thread which started as a child first as a love, then an aspiration as a young adult, and eventually becoming a serious pursuit and true passion as an adult, has been children’s literature. With the publication of Pippin Pals are Hero Helpers! her pursuit  finally became a “job” that incorporated her passion. Her sincerest hope is that these books benefit as many children as possible.

Outdoors Just May Be The Best Medicine.

I recently read an article in the newspaper (You know…that word-covered thing that gets delivered to your doorstep) about NATURE becoming a form of medicine.

Under a new initiative, doctors in western Michigan are prescribing visits to local parks along with traditional medicine to boost the health of their patients. The non-profit organization, PARK RX AMERICA, is hoping to spread the practice throughout the nation. Nature as a healer has become a hot topic for many folks looking for ways to stay healthy and reduce dependency on drugs for chronic conditions such as stress, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity.

A study, led by the Michigan doctors found that at least 20- 30 minutes of physical activity OUTSIDE OR INTERACTING WITH NATURE can reduce these health issues and make patients feel better, be happier.

Anyone can visit the Park Rx website and view over 8,000 parks in 34 states. Physicians can register through the website to prescribe parks for their patients.


Easy Recipe to Boost Immunity This Holiday Season.

I imagine most of us are even busier than usual during the month of December getting ready for holidays, or visits from friends and family. When days offer little free time, we often neglect taking care of ourselves and end up feeling tired, out of sorts, or even sick. And, the temptation to grab something quick to eat doesn’t help in the long run. Instead, why not choose food that boosts your immunity, reduces inflammation, and helps to ward off colds, fatigue, and even dry skin.

Numerous studies have proven that foods rich in anti-oxidants, Vitamin C and Zinc go a long way toward boosting our body’s immune system, especially during stressful periods like the holidays. These foods include leafy greens, broccoli and brussel sprouts, citrus fruits, berries, pomegranates, nuts and seeds.

Here is a simple recipe for a CITRUS SALAD I like to eat for breakfast with a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal.

citrus salad

This one has grapefruit, mandarin oranges, pomegranate seeds and coconut flakes. You can add sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or a handful of your favorite chopped nuts.

Also try adding nuts and berries to yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal. Make a green salad with MIXED GREENS, and sprinkle in sunflower or pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds, mandarin oranges, or grapefruit. salmon salad

This salad of mixed greens, cucumbers, pumpkin seeds, strawberries, dried cranberries, and slivered almonds also has chunk salmon from a packet to make it a main dish for lunch or dinner. Just add your favorite dressing.

The prep time for these is minutes, so there is no excuse not to eat healthy during this busy season. What are some of your favorite Vitamin boosting recipes for this time of year?


Three Worthy Causes to Sponsor on Veteran’s Day and Beyond.

Even though the holiday season is fast approaching, and thoughts of outdoor activities turn indoors, you can still show your support to two worthwhile causes throughout the year.

1. How can you honor Veteran’s on this Veteran’s Day?  Pick up a box of Band-Aids Our Veteran Heroes design bandages. With each purchase, the company makes a donation to TEAM RED, WHITE & BLUE, an organization that helps and supports veterans.  You can find them at Drugstores nationwide.

2.  Saturday, November 15 is AMERICA RECYCLES DAY.  Sort your cans, bottles,  and paper and help keep America beautiful.  visit:

3. Feed the hungry one grain of rice at a time while also building your vocabulary. for every word you correctly define, grains of rice will be set aside and donated to those in need. Visit

More Ways to Be Green.

Last month I shared ten simple ways to reduce our footprint on Mother Earth.  Today I will share ten more.

  • Collect rainwater and use it for landscaping. If you’re worried about mosquitoes, put a cover on it after it rains.
  • Bring your own mug or refillable cup to your favorite coffee spot.
  • Buy Fair Trade products.
  • Carpool as much as possible. And, combine errands so you drive more efficiently.
  • Choose reusable rather than disposable products. (razors, pens, cups, cloth napkins, diapers, etc)
  • Buy in bulk to avoid excess packaging.
  • Donate old cell phones and help save the African gorilla.
  • Don’t charge your cell phone overnight.
  • Reuse Ziploc bags when you can.
  • Purify indoor spaces with plants instead of artificial room fresheners.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to re-purpose something:

car planter

Got any more good ideas? We can all make a difference in many small ways.


Fit Kids=Smart Kids.

A recent study of 70 kids aged 9-11, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found that strong muscles in children correlates to better memory.  Other studies found that aerobically fit children have better thinking ability, attention, memory, and academic performance.

Bottom line: Getting kids moving with strength-building and aerobic activities during their school years will lead to an overall better school experience. Kids don’t have to join a gym.  Just make sure your child’s school has a playground with lots of equipment and that recess and gym classes are a regular part of the schedule.  Set an example by doing active things together as a family.  Taking after dinner walks, dancing to favorite songs, jumping rope, using a hula hoop, skipping and swimming.  Try crab walks, wheelbarrow races, pillow case races, and soup can arm curls to build muscles.


Activity can be fun when parents set the tone and participate as well.  The rewards are better health and a smarter brain!

It’s That Time Again: Farmer’s Market Season is Here!

Today I received one of my favorite e-mail messages: Local Organic Strawberries are here.  If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting these treasures right off the vines, you are missing one of nature’s most perfect culinary creations. Yes, you can buy organic strawberries in the grocery store. They’re fine…in a pinch.  But, if you can find local organic berries, walk, run, drive, fly to get them.  The season is short, so don’t wait.


2014-05-26 22.10.12

Now that even most urban areas have community gardens, the opportunities to “eat local” are better than ever. There are approximately 8,700 farmer’s markets nationwide. To find a market in your area visit:

If you’d like to try planting your own organic strawberries from starter seeds or kits:



Celebrate National Pistachio Day.

Today is NATIONAL PISTACHIO DAY. Why not snack on a handful while you learn a bit about this amazing nut.   The following information was provided by:

A Brief History of Pistachios

Pistachio Nuts are native to the Middle East. Archeological evidence in Turkey suggests that humans were enjoying them as early as 7,000 B.C. Pistachios spread from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, quickly becoming a treasured delicacy among royalty, travelers and common folk alike.


The pistachio has been used as a dyeing agent and a folk remedy for ailments ranging from toothaches to sclerosis of the liver. The pistachio’s high nutritional value and long storage life made it perfect for travel among early explorers and traders. Along with almonds, pistachios were frequently carried by travelers across the ancient Silk Road that connected China with the West.

Pistachios in the U.S.

Originally imported in the 1880s for Americans of Middle Eastern descent, pistachios were first introduced to the rest of America as a snack food some 50 years later. Sold in vending machines across the United States, these imported nuts were usually dyed red to mask imperfections and to draw attention from passersby.

Pistachio trees were planted experimentally in California beginning in the early 1930s.  By the 1960s, commercial cultivation of pistachios had expanded across California’s arid Central Valley. Today, California is the second largest producer of pistachios worldwide, boasting more than 100,000 acres of pistachio orchards and producing in excess of 300 million pounds of pistachios a year, with California accounting for about 98 percent of domestic production.

pistachio trees

One ounce – a handful – of pistachios provide lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and 12% of the daily fiber needed by healthy adults. There are lots of ways to enjoy them: as a snack right out of the bag, sprinkled onto a salad for extra crunch, in ice cream, in pudding, in muffins and cakes.  PISTACHIOS are one of Nature’s perfect foods in a nifty package.

Here are some popular books for children that feature this amazing nut:

The Pistachio Prescription  by Paula Danziger   

The Pistachio Prescription

The Adventure of Pistachio Mustachio Paperback – Large Print, July 19, 2016

What’s your favorite way to eat PISTACHIOS?

For additional information visit –

Boost Your Brain 2.

On January 20th I mentioned several ways yo can improve your brain function.  Here are several more.

  1. Get a good night’s SLEEP: Good sleep is the best thing you can do for your brain long term says Henry Emmons, MD author of STAYING SHARP (Touchstone).  Be sure your children get enough rest as well.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours for ages 18-64 and 7-8 hours for ages 65 and up.  Children need at least 7-9 hours of sleep as well.
  2. Surf…the Internet: Searching for information on the web improves neural circuitry.
  3. Hang out with Friends and Family.  Social connections improve brain health.
  4. Get lots of B Vitamins: B vitamins lower homocysteine – an amino acid linked to dementia.  You can find B vitamins in whole grain breads, pasta, cereals and rice.  It’s also found in poultry, leafy greens, papayas, beans, oranges and cantaloupe.  MAKE A SALAD WITH MIXED GREENS, SUNFLOWER SEEDS, CHICK PEAS OR OTHER BEANS, ORANGE SLICES AND DICED CHICKEN for a vitamin B packed meal.
  5. Be OPTIMISTIC: Positive thinking activates your brains ability to adapt and change.