31 August 2011

Back Packs for Kids

Back packs are an essential tool for preschool and school-age students. Here's why:
  1. They make it so much easier to carry things.
  2. Your child is less likely to lose things when transporting them to and from school.  
  3. With sturdy folders to put inside, papers will come home in relatively good condition.  (No back pack or folder is perfect! An imperfect child is putting it all inside!)
  4. Finally,  a great part of a new school year is that backpacks are really fun for your budding young geniuses to pick out! 

Do your kids want an action hero like Spiderman, or Transformers on their back pack... or their favorite sport, perhaps? How about a cartoon character like Dora the Explorer or a Princess theme?

There is so much to choose from at a variety of sizes and prices. Some have special compartments for pens, notebooks and other educational periphernalia.  

Others are just huge.  Really huge.  You can even find them with wheels and a handle to reduce wear & tear on the back or shoulders. You name it, you can buy it.

It would be nice if back packs would last for years to come but that is usually not the case.

They really do take a beating in a year's time.  The weight and volume of books, paper, pens, pencils, clothing and snacks that get stuffed into that thing put it through the ringer.  Expect to retire the back pack after a year, maybe two at the most.
Skip Hop Backpack Zoo
Health Concerns and Considerations:
Carrying large backpacks, stuffed with heavy books, digital devices, and the like can be hard on the back and shoulders.  Here are some tips from the experts at "Backpacks For School.com" on how to buy the right back pack:

Characteristics of a good school backpack: 
- shoulder straps should be as comfortable as possible
- sufficient padding should be included so it can provide support to the student and make the backpack easier to wear
-shoulder straps made of a material that doesn't slip, to help prevent the backpack from slipping off
-waist belt feature
-waist belt can be connected at the waist. Then it can help with evenly distribution of weight
-The backpack should be waterproof, so it protects the contents of the backpack
-Backpack should be made from quality material to last long (Ballistic nylon backpacks for example)
-Reflective patches are an useful safety feature, to help protect the child from traffic
-it should be as lightweight as possible
-it should have various compartments that can accommodate books and other items. This will make them easily accessible
-it should have quality zippers
-if it is intended to carry a laptop it should be extra thick

So here is to a happy, healthy school year... and a great backpack to carry you through!

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29 August 2011


Puppies! Don't you just love them? Today's "Martha Monday" post is dedicated to a topic that I absolute adore!  Dogs!

You know, Martha Stewart is known for her great decorating savvy, delicious recipes and desserts, flowers, cookbooks, magazines, wedding and event planning, television shows and magazines.  But did you know that she has a tremendous love for animals?  She even owns her own chickens!  Really.  She collects fresh eggs from her beloved hens every day.  Martha Stewart loves nature.  And now she has branched her business into pet supplies and everything that appeals to pet-fanciers.

She has a whole section on her website dedicated to pets, too.  The little cutie in the photo on this page is the winner of the Puppies 2011 Photo Contest featured on her website. Click on the link below the picture to go to her site and view all 46 of the top pix!  

"And the Winner Is...Me!"

Want to know just how much Martha loves pets?  She owns two French Bulldogs, Francesca and Sharkey, several Chow-Chows including a puppy named Ghenghis Khan (Hopefully the cute little furball is much better behaved than his namesake! Wait till you see him.  He's a little doll.), lovely cats and many barnyard animals whom she adores!  

Our Yellow Labs:  Lexi and Troy!  
How about you?  You a pet lover?  My passion is dogs.  We have two beautiful yellow labs in our household.  Lexi, a big English girl lab that we adopted, and our son's dog, Troy, a lovely American boy-lab!
Lexi and Troy tugging away at a soccer ball.  Wonder who will win?                                 Certainly not the ball!  LOL
How about you?  Do you own a pet? What kind?  Tell us about him/her!       (We have a gecko, too, named "Gecko".  How original!)

Recent Martha Stewart and Pet Posts
Dog Names
Marrow Bones, Cheap Toys that Dogs Love
Interactive Dog Toys that Teach Your Dog to Think
Martha Stewart Living Enters A Whole New Era -- includes a video clip and recipe
Simple Lovely Living

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19 August 2011

How Big is Your Mountain of Undone Stuff?

By Sinea Pies

Ever heard the saying "It's the little foxes that spoil the vines"? This age-old wisdom holds true.  Let the little things go undone for too long and the mole hill will become a mountain.  On its own, each item is no big deal.  Many of them left undone makes for chaos and a sense of unrest.  

Is there something lurking in the shadows that you forgot about? Perhaps an overdue bill or an important deadline?

Be encouraged.  A "Tying Up Loose Ends Day" will do a world of good.  Can't give it a whole day? Then start by devoting an hour or two. You will get lots done and will LOVE how it feels.

What kind of loose ends are we talking about? See if any of these ring a bell.

Appointments that need to be scheduled:
  • Doctor
  • Dentist
  • Vet
  • Hair Dresser
  • Optician
Auto needs:
  • Oil change on the car/winterizing
  • Auto inspections
Financial duties that need attention:
  • Bills: pay them
  • Checkbook: balance it
  • FAFSA forms for college students in your home
  • Tax information updates
Repairs not done:
  • Replacing burned out light bulbs
  • Sewing repair jobs (buttons, loose hems)
  • Tightening screws on door handles, etc.
Relationships to catch up:
  • Writing “thank you” notes
  • Visiting a friend or relative (by phone or in person)
Routines ignored:
  • Checks:  reorder them
  • Coupons: clip / sort and discard expired
  • Empty pop bottles: return them
  • Family Calendar: fill in dates 
  • Invitations: RSVP
  • Library Books: return or renew
  • License renewals (car registration, driver’s license, dog license…)
  • Mail: sort it and file/throw junk mail away
  • Prescriptions: reorder them
  • Smoke Alarms: replace batteries and test them

How about the secret recesses of the REFRIGERATOR?  Got some long-lost leftovers to sniff out and destroy? Yuck! (When you do clean it, don't forget to clean the ice dispenser on the door of your frig.)

These are just some of those loose ends that, when accumulated, can seem overwhelming.  On the other hand, stressing over them or trying to get them done all at once can be equally debilitating. 

So, fight the perfectionist inside you and accept the fact that you can only do what you can do.  Schedule a time to tackle the list, check each item off one by one, and watch the stress go out the window.

OK, what did I miss on this list?  Anything nagging at you that needs to be there?  Share your thoughts with us!

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17 August 2011

Five Ingredient 15 Minute Recipes

Finally! I found the Weight Watchers "cookbook" of my dreams. It is the Weight Watchers Five Ingredient 15 Minute Recipes magazine style cookbook.  
I've always wanted some really good Weight Watchers compatible recipes in my cookbook arsenal but every time I would order one of their cookbooks, I'd send it back.  Why?  No photos! At least, hardly any.  Their magazine is so gorgeous.  Every scrumptious recipe a work of art.  But the cookbooks had very few pictures, until now!

This is what I wanted in a Weight Watchers Cookbook.
  • Picturesque display
  • Easy to follow instructions
  • Delicious to look at!
  • Delicious to eat!
  • Points-friendly
  • And the whole family would love it, not just the weight-conscious.
So, I was at my daughter Shannon's house and right on her kitchen shelf, there it was!  COOKBOOK HEAVEN! Don't you just love the sound of 5 ingredients and only 15 minutes from start to finish? So easy. She loaned it to me so that I could share it with you but you can bet that I will be getting my own copy real soon!

BTW, Weight Watchers does share great recipes on their website, with beautiful pictures, including five-ingredient recipes.  

Here is one for Five Ingredient Pineapple Upside Down Cake, 4 points per serving.

What's your favorite "lite" recipe?  Feel free to share it with us all in the comments!

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14 August 2011

Martha Stewart Living Enters a Whole New Era

Twenty years ago the Martha Stewart Living Magazine was born.
Twenty years later...it goes DIGITAL!
Yes, August 15, 2011 marks the unveiling of Martha's totally digital version of her beautiful magazine.

If you can't catch it on Hallmark, view the Martha Stewart Show “Digital Living” episode introducing the exciting new era of the magazine by clicking HERE .

See how Adobe created moving, “living” photos for the cover. The peony on the cover comes to life!   It's simply beautiful.

Also in this installment, learn how to make Phyllo Pastries with Martha and actor Jeff Goldblum. 

In a hurry and can't watch the clip right now? Be sure to make a note to come back to it but here is one of the recipes for you now: 

Phyllo Squares with Baked Egg, 
Spinach, and Cheese
From MarthaStewart.com

8 cups baby spinach, remove stems
1 cup ricotta cheese
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
Coarse grain salt and freshly ground pepper
7 large eggs
1 stick butter, unsalted
6 sheets of thawed phyllo dough (12 X 17 inches each)

How to Make It
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. 

Wash spinach, leaving some water clinging to leaves. Cook in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Squeeze spinach to release as much liquid as possible. Finely chop, and transfer to a bowl. (You'll have 1/2 cup packed.) Add ricotta and feta. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1 egg.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat; let solids sink to bottom. Skim foam. Carefully pour off clarified butter, discarding solids. Brush baking sheet with clarified butter.
Cover phyllo with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel to keep it from drying out as you work. Remove 3 phyllo sheets, and layer on baking sheet, brushing each with clarified butter before topping with another sheet. Repeat brushing and layering with remaining 3 phyllo sheets to form a second stack on a work surface; cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel to keep from drying out.

Place 6 evenly spaced dollops of spinach filling onto first phyllo stack, leaving a 2-inch border around each dollop. Make a well in the center of each filling mound. Crack 1 egg, and separate, reserving white. Carefully tip egg yolk into well of 1 filling mound. Repeat with remaining eggs.

Whisk reserved egg whites and brush onto phyllo between mounds. Top with remaining phyllo stack. Press between filling mounds to seal. Using a pastry wheel, cut around filling mounds to form six 5 1/2-inch squares. Bake until phyllo is golden but yolks are still runny, 6 to 7 minutes. (Centers should still be soft when touched with the tip of your finger.) Serve immediately.

Another Great Recipe: Phyllo Cups with Cappuccino Cream

Vocabulary Update
Definition: Phyllo -- phyllo, filo, or fillo dough is paper-thin sheets of unleavened flour dough used for making pastries in Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisine...more
Definition: What is an IPad?   I had to ask myself that question.  With Ipads and Ipods and Blackberries and Kindles advertised all over the place, I wasn't all that sure that I knew what an Ipad was, as I was listening to Martha talk about it. It made me want one but I wasn't sure what it was that I was wanting! :)

The iPad is a tablet computer designed and developed by Apple. It is particularly marketed as a platform for audio and visual media such as books, periodicals, movies, music, and games, as well as web contentmore

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10 August 2011

The Winners ...

Thank you to everyone who entered our 

The two wonderful winners have been selected! 
They are:  Jessyca F. and Raquel S.

If you lovely ladies will please email us your mailing address, your prize package of greeting cards will be sent right out to you.  ducksnarow1@gmail.com 

Thank you Tip Junkie for making it possible to publicize this giveaway to a larger audience!

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06 August 2011

Save Money -- Conquer the Grocery Jungle

photo courtesy of blog.billy.com
Having a serious challenge trying to feed your family on your current income? You've stopped eating out, saved gas by only going to essential places and reduced your on-the-road coffee purchases to almost never. You are economizing all over the place and still your pocketbook is screaming!

Whatever the cause of your current situation, be encouraged that this is just a season. Nothing stays the same. Transitions come and go. This time of personal economic crisis is not forever. It may feel like it is, but it's not!

So, why not take charge of your thoughts and adopt a new attitude! This crisis is not going to break you but make you. It will be your training ground in preparation for better times to come.
Where to start? By conquering the one jungle that everyone must contend with on a recurring basis: the grocery store! How can you enjoy grocery shopping with such restrictions? How can you do more with so little? Think like a millionaire!

If it seems to be a little kooky to compare grocery shopping and a millionaire mentality, think again. Authors Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko report in their best seller "The Millionaire Next Door" that most millionaires got there by a slow, methodical approach to living. They didn't get a windfall and go right out to buy a yacht. No, they worked hard, pinched pennies, seldom bought on credit and said "no" to some "today-things" with a purpose in mind. They were focused and meticulously aware of where every dime was being spent. Who would have thought that this is what it takes to become a millionaire.

So, you're financially caught between a rock and a hard place. Welcome to your training ground. How do you get this vision of a "millionaire" inside? Start simple. Adopt a great attitude and say "This is going to be fun!". Painful but FUN! Put purpose into it. You are going to stretch ridiculously low dollars and triumph in providing another week of delicacies for your family that will make life seem not-so-bad!

Now what? Start with a plan!

1. Know what you have to work with. Besides paying necessary bills for the week, what will be available to take to the grocery store?

2. Consider what has to be accomplished with this week's pay. Does that money include your gas money? Unless you work from home, you'd better count that in. Determine what portion can be spent on food.

3. What are THIS week's shopping essentials? Can that shampoo stretch another week? What are you going to make for your meals? Select recipes that your family likes, so that they are happy and nothing is wasted, but steer clear of anything that requires the purchase of ingredients that will sit on the shelf for months. (If it calls for ketchup, buy it. Ketchup you'll use! If it requires tarragon and you don't have any, you may want to save that recipe for another time. Tarragon can be pricey and you won't use it often enough.)

4. Where to shop? Select stores that are pleasant to be in but offer good pricing, as well. Stores like that do exist. You can supplement by going to budget grocery outlets to stock up on staples like condiments, bread and canned goods. Visit public markets where produce is fresh from the farm to you. Arrive just as the vendors are packing up for the day and you can pick up great deals at a fraction of their already low price.

5. Don't forget the meat! Meats and poultry are a real budget-cruncher but they are such an important dietary basic. You stay full longer on protein. It gives you energy and helps you think. Eat nothing but low-priced carbs and, after a while, you won't feel well and you'll be hungry all the time. The best way to buy meat is to buy it in bulk and break it into smaller portions to freeze when you get home.

6. Don't waste your resources. Is today's purchase necessary for this week's meals? Can it wait a little while? When you do buy it, will it spoil if not consumed right away? Make sure you put it to use while it's fresh.

7. Make a precise list. No guess work. If you have a computer, put your list on an Excel spreadsheet with estimated prices. Based on your experience, predict the cost of each item and pad it just a little bit. (If you think it will cost $2.25 then write down $2.50 just in case there is a price hike.)
If your total exceeds the money you have to spend, cross out items you will skip this time around. Do not despair! It may hurt for the moment but remember, THIS IS JUST A SEASON! Things will get better and you are going to get through this. And, think of how smart you're getting. You are becoming a pro! (Checklist advice and free checklists.)

8. Bring coupons but buy generic or store brands when it's a better deal. Even with coupons, buying store brand items may be a smarter move.
So, that's a beginner lesson at how the millionaire mentality can help you in tough times. Put it to work for you and have fun thinking of new ways to beat the system! Better times are coming.

9. Join Websites.  There are some great websites, such as A Dime at a Time, Just Married with Coupons and Coupon Coffee Shop that keep up with the latest deals at the grocery stores as well as retail and discount stores. When you find a site that meets your needs, subscribe to their posts by email or RSS feed to find out the latest, soon as it posts. If you are an active Facebooker, "like" their fanpages when you visit their sites, too. 

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04 August 2011

Lighten Up With Liz!

Happy Weight Loss Wednesday!

Health & Fitness Expert
Liz Bonis
You know, I just love Liz Bonis!  If you haven't heard of her, you must get acquainted.  She is the vivacious radio/tv personality of Lighten Up With Liz...and a home grown product of Rochester NY.  A little known fact about Liz: she is a graduate of the school that I work in!  Faith Temple School (now known as Destiny Christian School and Preschool).  She is one of our claims to fame!

Liz is not only a health & lifestyle reporter but she is a registered dietitian, a certified nutritionist, a certified personal trainer, and a diabetes educator. And she had time to get her Masters degree in Communications, as well. 

With boundless energy and a great sense of humor...Liz has the rare gift of bringing joy and laughter to what can be a very touchy subject:  WEIGHT!

So many of us look forward to the interesting anecdotes and funny "asides" from Liz as she has her brief radio conversation every day at 8:15 am with Beth & Chet. We drive to work with her. She fills her show up laughter, the latest in medical studies and really interesting tidbits that you'd "only hear here"!  She researches for us, reads for us, translates medical jargon into just plain English!  We love Liz!  

Liz is seen regularly on TV Channel 12 in Cincinnati . 
She also appears on 13WHAM in Rochester NY and has a very popular 
daily talk show on WHAM 1180 AM radio in Rochester NY.

Here is a nugget, straight from Liz's website Lighten Up With Liz, that may help you figure out what's going on if weight loss isn't coming easily:

The “Dynamic Duo” for Weight Loss
International Journal of Obesity
June 10, 2011

"When it comes to losing weight, we’ve all heard the mantra “eat less, exercise more” right?  But a new report says ther are two other elements critical to successfully losing weight and keeping it off.

In a dual-phase randomized trial of 472 obese people, researchers found that managing stress and treating depression made a big difference to long-term weight loss.

This makes sense if you tend to overeat when you’re stressed out, but even’t if you don’t, if you are finding it a struggle to manage your weight you might want to have your stress and depression levels checked out.  If you can’t remove what’s stressing you, employ a coping mechanism such as exercise.  It may also help ease depression; about one-third of people who exercise on a regular basis find that their mood improves with exercise."

What's a coping mechanism for you?  I must confess that mine is usually chocolate! No surprise, huh!  Think I should Liz's exercise suggestion and see how it goes?  Leslie Sansone DVD, where did I leave you? 

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