Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Three Amazing Websites To Help You Celebrate Purim

Happy March! For those of us who are Jewish and/or interfaith, Purim begins this year on Wednesday evening, March 4, 2015, and continues through Thursday night, March 5th


So what's Purim about?





Masks are part of Purim fun!


According to the website www.chabad.org, the Persian empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife executed for failing to follow his orders, he conducted a beauty pageant to find a new queen and a Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes. She became the new queen, while not letting Ahasuerus know she was Jewish. In the meantime, the anti-Semitic Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was infuriated and convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the eradication of the Jews. Mordechai convinced the Jews to repent, fast and pray while Esther implored the kid and Haman to join her in a feast. Esther told the kid she was Jewish, Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister and a new decree was issued granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.


The service for Purim is pretty unusual and a lot of fun, especially for kids. You're encouraged to dress in silly costumes and every time you hear Haman's name, you're supposed to interrupt the service with noise-making devices (as opposed to being quiet).





After extensive research, I found these three websites to help you and your little one get in the spirit of Purim:

  1. Torahtots.com – A bright, fun website, kids can learn the story of Purim, how it's celebrated, about the foods associated with Purim and the site even has Purim trivia.
  2. Chabad.org – This site offers games, crafts, printables, videos, songs, stories, music, and more! A MUST-LOOK if you celebrate Purim!
  3. Aish.com  – Offers videos, recipes, coloring pages, tips on Purim costumes, a trivia page and even boasts a guideline for having a Purim Scavenger hunt. Fun!


Everyone loves Purim festivities, but there's deeper meaning. It's about courage, survival, and one woman who made a real difference to her people. Happy Purim! 









Please note that a version of this post appeared on www.thegeekparent.com. 



Monday, March 2, 2015

Heroes Of The City On YouTube


Last year on the other website I write for, The Geek Parent, I reviewed the Heroes Of The City Baby (read my review here). Even before that, I'd reviewed the Heroes Of The City app aimed at preschoolers (read that review here). In a nutshell, this series is great because unlike others, it boasts both a male and female lead character, with each being a brave and role-model in his and her own right.







Now, Heroes Of The City have their very own YouTube Channel for the preschool set!


This channel provides more than 6 hours of entertainment for boys and girls alike to enjoy watching their favorite HOTC characters become heroes in compelling stories about what it means to be a hero, friendship, and teamwork. 


Check it out and watch it with your child. Heroes Of The City can generate some wonderful discussions between you and your child on the topics of helping, what a hero is, and how we can affect the lives of others every day. 







Thank you for reading!!!!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Avoid These 5 Email Mistakes

Most of us check our email every day and although, to some degree, email is intuitive, it's still a form of communication with Dos and Don'ts.


Here are 5 Common Email Mistakes 
we all need to avoid:





  1. Not Using A Greeting – Addressing someone by name still applies in email, just as it does when writing a letter. Addressing someone with a simple “Good morning, Allison!” or “Dear Principal Wood” adds professionalism to your correspondence and sets the tone for the rest of the communication.


  2. Understanding When Email Is/Is Not The Right Form Of Communication – There are times when email is absolutely justified as a mode of communication and others when it's not. Delivering bad news and providing constructive criticism may be done best in person or via the phone. There are situations when you simply need to be with someone in person to give them more information that they can see for themselves (i.e. body language, expression). Using email in those circumstances can be viewed as a cop-out and may actually hinder the message you're trying to deliver.



  3. Using Chat Language – Abbreviations are just plain lazy and should not be used when writing an email. Sure, LOL is acceptable when texting, but email is a longer form of communication. People may not be aware of certain abbreviations and may not understand what you're talking about. Don't leave it to chance – spell it out.


     
      
  4. Forgetting To Double-Check Before You Hit “Send” - We've all sent emails to the wrong person unintentionally. And I HATE it when I find a typo in an email I've already sent. Always check that you're sending your communication to the right person, that you’ve spell-checked, and that your information is correct.



  5. Rambling – With vast quantities of email we get, composing an effective email is crucial. Greet, get to the point, and write a simple closing (“Hoping to hear from you,” or “Good luck”).



If you're going email, do it right! Avoid the mistakes above to be a better communicator and have your message received.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

10 Cheap, Easy Ways To Stay Warm This Winter

It's -14 degrees outside which is funny, because I don't remember moving to Antarctica! While most of my house is comfortably warm, my den has 9 windows with a back door. The room leads to the kitchen, so both rooms get cold. Sure, I could probably add more insulation into the walls, but that's expensive. 



Staying warm can be a fun challenge!



So here are 10 cheap ways I keep myself and the family toasty:


  1. Blankets – There's nothing like curling up with the family under a nice warm quilt on a winter's night to watch a movie. I have several blankets available for snuggling under – either alone, with a friend, or family member.




  2. Sweatshirts, Sweaters, Etc. – For some reason, a few years back, sweatshirts were the "in” item to give out at bar mitvahs. We got several in large sizes with the bar mitvah boys' names on them. I don't feel like wearing a “Chester Rosenbaum Original” outside of the house, but inside, it's perfectly fine. Many of these shirts are thermal and suitable for wearing around the house.



     
  3. Open Up The Blinds – Opening the blinds/curtains on south-facing windows during the day lets the warmth of the sun in. Close them in the evening for a bit of insulation. 


     
    Blankets & opening blinds can help warm a room. Oh, and if you can, grab a furry pet!
     
  4. Put Rugs On The Floors – I'm not a big fan of rugs, but in that room, the wall-to-wall carpeting helps with the thermal factor in there. You can try area rugs if you don't have full carpets.





  5. Space Heaters – The space heater in my den is adjustable for the area of the room. It sits on a hard, flat surface and turns off if tipped over.  We have one rule: when you leave the room, you MUST turn it off. Obviously, if a kid is going to the bathroom, that's one thing. But if someone is going to another section of the house, that unit must be shut. It's also a part of the house check we do before going to bed.



    A good space heater will turn off when tipped over. 




  6. Grab Or Make A Draft Stopper – Draft stoppers like the one I have (pictured to the right) are designed to fill in gaps on moveable items like doors or windows. This one is great because it slips under the door and opens and closes with the door.   Or you can make your own; here's a link showing how you can make a simple one.
     


     
  7. Close Unused Rooms Or Floors – Close the vents in rooms you don't use and shut the door. We keep the basement door shut. It stays cold, but since we don't go down there that often, it's impractical to keep heating the space.

     
     

  8. Change Your Furnace Filter Periodically -  A dirty filter forces the furnace to work harder and decreases the unit's efficiency. Mine gets changed at the beginning of the season and I check it mid-season to see if it needs replacing. 



  9. Cook – You don't want to run an oven empty because of carbon monoxide poisoning, but I cook a lot in the winter (not well, but I do cook). After my chicken or lasagna is done, I turn the oven off and let that excess heat warm up the kitchen. Similarly, I'm not a fan of the drying unit on my dishwasher; I'd rather let my dishes air dry. Opening the dishwasher up at the end, releases steam into the air and warms up the kitchen as well.



  10. Wear Appropriate Footwear – I am not a fan of socks or slippers, but in the Winter, I bite the bullet and put them on. Cold toes are not fun. 



    My daughter says mismatched socks are in.  Good, because I can never match them anyway!




Staying warm takes a little ingenuity, but it can be fun and is a great way to bond.  



There's nothing better than body heat, is there? Now, where's my favorite blanket and my little one? It's time to cuddle!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~








Thanks for reading!!!



Thursday, February 19, 2015

ULTRAFLOW - An Addicting FREE Game Great For Kids & Adults

Okay, old-time gamers: remember PONG, one of the earliest arcade video games? It was a two-dimensional graphics tennis game that was one of the first to reach mainstream popularity.  It was brilliant in its simplicity, yet it was still a challenge. I remember poo-pooing at how easy the game seemed, only to be frustrated when I missed that stupid little ball. 




In perusing the Play Store the other day, I stumbled upon a game just as minimalistic, as complex, and absolutely addicting as PONG.  It’s called (drumroll, please)….



ULTRAFLOW


Screenshot_2014-12-21-15-53-06-614x1024



This free game gives you a limited number of bounces to get the disc through different mazes to the target. There are 99 levels and:

  • there’s no score
  • no timer
  • and the BEST part:  NO ADS or invasive permissions required!

     

onelevel
I breezed through the first 8 levels and then started to sweat. Sometimes I found it a little difficult to figure out how to navigate the mazes and my disc broke up.  Grrrrrr! It was frustrating, but I realized that the key wasn’t always speed. Sometimes slowing down helped me achieve my goal.


Again, the graphics are simple so you can really concentrate on the game. The music is also inoffensive and more like white noise. The fact that the background is dark means it saves on battery power and the app boasts almost no memory consumption.

This is a great game for anyone! and I have not been able to put it down!



I especially recommend it for kids since there’s absolutely NOTHING OFFENSIVE to watch out for! No ads and no special permissions make it great for kids 8 and up.


Download it, play it, and then hand your device to your child. The game is optimized for a wide range of phones and tablets and plays beautifully on all.



For more information or to play the web version of the game, visit http://ultraflow.net/.


Please note:  This article first appeared on www.thegeekparent.com.




Monday, February 16, 2015

Is 2015 The Chinese Year Of The Sheep Or Goat? Here's The Scoop!

As many of us prepare to celebrate the start of the Chinese New Year on February 19th, the festival begins with a little confusion:


Should we be welcoming the Year Of The Sheep, as some believe, or The Year Of The Goat/Ram, as others are touting?





The answer?  It really depends on how the Chinese character, yang, is translated. 


The Chinese zodiac was invented by the Han people who raised goats (not sheep), so the image is more likely to refer to a goat. Also, the goat appears on many Chinese zodiac stamps and the goat was one of the 12 bronze statues on the zodiac at the Old Summer Palace where emperors of the Qing Dynasty handled government affairs. Publicly, however, storefronts throughout Asia are showing a mixture of cute sheep, cheeky goats, and majestic curly-horned rams. Many schools are primarily showing images of sheep because they're fluffy and more appealing to little kids. 








So what are the characteristics of those born in the Year Of The Sheep/Goat?


People born in this year are thought to be gentle, stable, and kind. They have strong creativity, are persistent, with strong inner resilience. These are folks who like to be in groups and are thought to come by professional skills easily. Because people born in this year are calm, they're thought to be healthier, with fewer health-related problems. 


Here are three of my favorite websites for kids that will teach them all about this holiday:



This site explains how to prepare for the New Year and shows celebrations around the world. It gives a great global perspective on the holiday (after all, it's celebrated by millions of people not only in China, but Japan, Singapore, North Korea, South Korea, the United States, and Great Britain to name a few). 




Got a preschooler?  Then this is the place for you where you'll find lots of goat printables, including mazes, worksheets, and coloring pages.  




In addition to having some wonderful crafts, you can find printable books here for kids!  There's so much and it's FREE! 





As the mother of a child who was adopted from China, I embrace her culture. I'm so happy that she is proud to be Chinese-American and feels a connection to her country of birth!  I've learned so much about resilience, beauty, and creativity by looking at different aspects of China and what it means, to her, to be Chinese.


 Xin [sing] Nian [nee-an] Kuai [kwai] Le [ler] 新年快乐!


Saturday, February 14, 2015

What A Female Partner REALLY Means When She Says...

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd give all my male readers a little lesson in feminine lingo and my female readers a chance to nod and say, "That's right!"  So here is a guide to:


FEMALE TRANSLATIONS
 (Or What She Means When She Says...)



When she says:  You want
She means:  You WANT


When she says:  We need
She means:  I want


When she says:  Hmmm, what should I make for dinner?
She means:  I don't feel like cooking.  Let's order out.


When she says:  It's your decision.
She means:  The correct decision is obvious.  Make it or you're in trouble!


When she says:  I wish...
She means:  Make it happen.


When she says:  Do what you want...
She means:  You're screwed.


When she says:  Sure, go ahead.
She means:  You'd better NOT!


When she says:  I'm not upset.
She means:  OF COURSE I'M FRIGGIN' UPSET!  


When she says:  I heard a noise.
She means:  I noticed that you were almost asleep.  Get up.


When she says:  How much do you love me?
She means:  I did something you're not going to like.  (And you may want to get the checkbook ready.)





AND THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE:
 
 
When she says:  Am I fat?
She means:  Tell me I'm beautiful!






 Thanks for reading!




 Please note:  Some of these were adapted from this website. 

 



 




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Lazy Mom's BEST Ribollita (Bean) Soup EVER!


If you've been reading this blog, you KNOW that I cannot cook. I burn, I nuke (microwave), and make salads quite well, but cooking is not one of my talents. 


Still, many years ago before kids (BK), I traveled to Tuscany and experienced tried a food that changed my life.  It's called ribollita. 


For those who don't know, ribollita is a Tuscan bean soup. According to Wikipedia, the soup has peasant roots when it was originally made by reheating (or reboiling) leftover minestrone soup from the previous day. Some say the soup dates back to the Middle Ages when servants gathered up the bread from their lords' banquets and used it in their own dinners. Ribollita is made from leftover vegetables you have in your kitchen, beans, stock, perhaps some cheese, and old, crusty bread. It's one of those “throw together” suppers. The ribollita we had at a restaurant was so thick and hearty, you could eat it with a fork. 


Ribollita is a hearty, healthy soup!


Ever since then, I've been trying to re-create that original dish, but to no avail. Either my stock is off or the mix of vegetables isn't right. Until now. On the website Chewnibblenosh.com, they had a recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentis (find her original here). 


Yesterday, I modified the recipe even further to come up with THE BEST version of ribollita I've had since that original experience in Italy years ago!


Before I even list the ingredients, let me preface this by saying that MOST Italian food tastes better when it's had time to gel. By that I mean, make this either in the morning of the evening you're going to serve it, as I did, or the day before. In time, the flavors will coalesce, making it more flavorful the longer you leave it. This recipe supposedly serves 4 to 6 people, but my family had at least 6 servings of it yesterday, and we can easily get three more out of it. 


Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

½ c extra-virgin olive oil
2 chopped onions (I used frozen chopped onions since I hate chopping them)
4 small carrots, chopped
4 to 6 ounces of chopped pancetta (I bought this in a package at the grocery store)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon of salt & pepper (to taste)
1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz.) can of diced tomatos, with the juice
1 (10 oz.) box of frozen, chopped spinach
2 cans of Cannelini beans
1 teaspoon each of dried thyme and rosemary
6 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
3 inch piece of Parmesan rind – save the rest of the cheese for grating on top
Any other veggies you might have lying around
1 cup of mozzarella cheese
½ loaf of leftover Italian or French bread


Instructions:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, pancetta, garlic, salt & pepper. Cook about 10 minutes until the onion browns and the pancetta begins to crisp. Add the tomato paste and stir into the mixture. Then add the tomatos with the juice, stirring constantly.
  2. Add the beans, spinach, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, broth, leftover veggies, mozzarella, and the Parmesan rind. Break the bread into pieces and put it on top of the soup. Bring the soup to a low boil and keep it going for at least 25 minutes. I had it going until it boiled over, then just left it on the stove (sans heat) for a few hours.
  3. Discard the bay leaf, stir the bread (which has absorbed the soup) into the ribollita, and spoon the soup into bowls. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


    I had three bowls of this ribollita and could EASILY have had more!


Ribollita  is a great dish during cold season and can easily be adapted depending on what vegetables the family likes.

It's nutritious and makes the house smell wonderful!


Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to grab another bowl before the family gets to it.  I LOVE this soup!  


Thanks for reading!!!





Sunday, February 8, 2015

5 Foods To Help With Sleep


Ever since menopause hit, I've had trouble sleeping. While the supplement melatonin has been a lifesaver for me (and sanctioned by my doctor), I try not to take it, preferring to eat or drink things that will help me sleep rather than take a pill.

Here are the 5 foods that help me the most when it comes to getting to and staying asleep.  


Please note: I am not a doctor or health professional. I'm just telling you what works for me.


If only I could sleep as soundly as my cat!
 
  • Cherry Juice - Cherries, especially tart cherries, naturally boost the body's level of melatonin. Now, I find it can be a bit harsh on the stomach, so I mix it with seltzer. I've also given this to my kids and it helps them sleep.

    The calcium plus cherry power makes this a powerful sleep aid!
  •  Greek Yogurt - Really, any food high in calcium will help you sleep (thus the age-old recommendations to drink warm milk before bed). Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt which leaves your tummy feeling full before bed. Better yet – try cherry Greek yogurt. My favorite is Chobani Black Cherry Yogurt which not only contains cherries, but cherry juice.


  • Chamomile Tea – A popular choice for bedtime, my kids swear by this! When Hurricane Sandy hit and we were all stressed from seven days without power, my kids had a cup of this every night. They still ask for it when they can't sleep. Chamomile tea increases glycine which relaxes nerves and acts like a mild sedative. Add honey – the natural sugar raises insulin levels and helps tryptophan (an amino acid which also helps with sleep) enter the brain.  I keep a cup of chamomile tea (without honey) beside my bed in case I wake up at night.  It helps me go back to sleep. 

  • Bananas – These fruits are rich in potassium and are a good source of Vitamin B6 which your body needs to produce melatonin. Plus, they're a great comfort food.


  • Fortified Cereals – These are cereals in which extra vitamins are added to the original ingredients. They contain Vitamin B6 which, again, your body needs to make melatonin. Our favorites are Cheerios and Special K. Added bonus: the milk you pour over the cereal contains calcium for even more sleep-inducing power.


I remember reading that white foods, like rice and pasta, will also help you sleep, but I try to avoid high carb foods. In fact, I really do limit my intake of cereal.


Want to read about more foods that help with sleep? Click here.


Off to get my cup of chamomile tea now!



These foods have me sleeping like a baby!



Thank you for reading and SWEET DREAMS!







.




Thursday, February 5, 2015

SnoreStop Tablets May Save You From Killing Your Spouse



Whereas many women I know complain about their husbands snoring, I must confess that I am the snorer in the family. I've always snored, no matter how much I weighed. Years ago, before kids and when I had a 9 to 5 job, I remember taking naps in the park during my lunch hour and actually waking MYSELF up with my snoring!


I don't have sleep apnea. I just move mountains with the amount of noise that comes from my nose and mouth!



Is it an earthquake? Nope!  Just me snoring!


I've tried everything to stop my snoring including throat sprays, nasal strips, chin straps, avoiding dairy and alcohol before bed, using various pillows (or foregoing a pillow altogether). I even wore the ever-disgusting mouth guard. So the other day, when I saw yet another “cure” I hadn't tried, I was intrigued.


SnoreStop Homeopathic Tablets are supposedly “all natural”, boast no side effects, and are allegedly non-drowsy. The product targets any inflammation of the soft tissue lining the back of the throat and dries up mucus that blocks the nasal passages. By addressing these issues, snoring should stop. The clincher for me was the money-back guarantee the stuff comes with. I grabbed the package and put my cash register receipt in a place I'd remember (too often I lose the receipts). 


Did these stop my snoring?  Read on!



I followed the directions and took one pill 30 minutes before retiring for bed and another as I got into bed.   


Feedback from my family the next morning indicated that although SnoreStop didn't stop my snoring altogether, it did reduce the decibel level so I wasn't snoring as loudly.


This pleased my family so much, they want me to continue using the product.


Sure, I was disappointed that it didn't eliminate the problem completely. But if the kids are happy, I'm happy.


I'm keeping my receipt just in case the effects of SnoreStop doesn't last, but after using it for three nights, I'm satisfied with the product.


Mountains do not move and everyone is sleeping better. Best of all, I don't have to wear that obnoxious, uncomfortable mouth guard that I HATED. Give SnoreStop a shot. With a money-back guarantee, you have nothing to lose. 




Thanks for reading!   Please come back again, won't you?