Monthly Archives: November 2013

Carrots & Pretzels: Thanksgiving eats for the whole family

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Isn’t the Internet grand? Just found a guest post I wrote two years ago highlighting my go-to Thanksgiving cookbook. Saves me some time drafting a new post. And, hopefully YOU some time searching for a new family-friendly recipe. Alas, I can’t rewind to two years ago when the house didn’t feel quite so empty. My favorite part of the holidays is having everyone who can get here, home. My guess is that’s your favorite part too. Happy eating–and hugging. Blog tip: Want some decor ideas, click the image below. 

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(Originally posted on November 18, 2011 on The Alonna Zone)

“I met Dawn Warden through our membership in Les Dames d’Escoffier and we each recognized in the other a passion for, not only good food, but zest for life.  She is the former Senior editor and Food editor at Main Line Today.  I asked her to share her Thanksgiving traditions and favorite family dishes. Here is Dawn…”

…Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, as much for the gentle get-your-grateful-on kick-in-the-pants as the crazy-good food that has us all moaning and poking at our bulging bellies by the end of the day. For years now, I have only cooked from Anthony Dias Blue’s Thanksgiving Dinner cookbook, which as far as I am concerned, is the only one you need. My only dissension is the stuffing recipe, which I found on the back of a box of Snyder’s pretzels and thought, ‘What the heck; I’ll give it a try.’ With five kids in the house, stuffing made with an abundance of chunky pretzel bits seems like a safe bet—it was, and still is. Here the recipe courtesy of Snyder’s of Hanover. I tweak it with better quality gourmet pork or veal sausage, baby bella mushrooms and celery—and set aside some that is plain for picky and non-meat eaters.  Continue reading

What Is The Point of A Blog?

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Update to this post:
When switching from .com to .org, I lost the ability to re-blog (bummer, right?) but I really liked this particular post—as noted in the copy below—so if you’re intrigued by the question, give a click—and a read.

I read this while half-asleep this AM, and I was 110% smitten with Catherine, Caffeinated‘s words. I mean, “What is the point of a blog?” IS a good question, right? I certainly wax poetic to all of my clients, about the merits of blogging, and admittedly, spend far more time on my personal blog than my biz blog and occasionally on my husband and children. It’s my space, and I dig it. And thanks to Catherine, Caffeinated, I can dig it all the more. After all, writers have to write. And, as you’ll note upon visiting my blog, sometimes, 140 characters just isn’t enough.

high anxiety: moving over to wordpress.org…

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…taking my blog to the next level—without destroying it in the process; the upgrade required me to restore default settings which amounted to a lackluster font. (Not an easy click to make since I am a font-forward writer.) But because I am so thrilled to be building a following, and want to be as professional as possible with this recent writing endeavor, it makes sense to step up and get in the ring where the big kids play. And, I also happily discovered a few fonts I can live with until the big switch is active. Then, I’ll be thinking on a new design, again to look as pro as possible. Showing personality is good, but doing it with truly slick style is even better. Feel free to send over any advice you WordPress design experts.

In the meantime, I’ll keep posting—and keep y’all posted. Ready, set, go…

No Kid Hungry: 14 Days, 14 Ways

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Every time I see or read a news clip, post or tweet about what’s happening in the Philippines, one of the first thoughts to pop up is, “How are these organizations doing it?” I think about the recent refugee crisis in Syria, and wonder how the world’s relief agencies are going to be able to meet the nutritional needs of all the Filipinos who barely survived. It’s an unfathomable burden that requires “a village” — aka you and me.

Because along with the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons across the globe, we have many, many hungry families here in our own country, who are having equal difficulties obtaining food. Hunger continues to be one of the world’s most pressing issues. It’s hard to make sense of it, or to visualize an end. But in a country where food is practically recreation, it feels unacceptable that so many go without. If you’re not fully aware of what the real story is regarding hunger, particularly in kids, a visit to NoKidHungry.org will open your eyes. My fellow Pennsylvanians can also get a local perspective via Coalition Against Hunger. Skimming this PDF addressing the state of hunger in PA, it’s hard to overlook the big numbers…

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Typhoon Haiyan Giving Guide

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There’s nothing original about me writing a post on how to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan; lists and links have been circulating all week. But just like many of you, I am walking around with a burning need to act, and unable to stay focused and feel purposeful amidst a constant stream of staggering images, displaced persons stats and death/survival stories. Worse, I can’t convey my empathy to the families and individuals who have lost loved ones, their homes, and in most cases, at this point, their dignity. I can’t help think about the pregnant woman who shared her struggle of finding food to keep herself and her unborn child nourished. Nor can I get my mind off the young children who lost parents, and might be wandering around the streets, completely helpless and alone… babies dying at birth because their would-be moms are suddenly without appropriate medical care. I could go on and on conjuring up images of a life that is happening concurrently with mine. Mine, a life that at this moment boasts ridiculously mundane “problems” such as being behind schedule with a couple blog posts, not having had time to workout this week, and how I am going to pay for the computer my HS senior is begging for this Christmas.

You get the point.

So if all I can do, is compile information on how and where to give, making it as easy as a click for anyone willing to read this post, then I have made a difference. If you think the resources here have value to those in your circles, I hope that you will share this post. More importantly, I hope that you will find a few extra dollars in your piggy bank to donate. World relief organizations are under incredible pressure in regard to Syrian refugees and so many other global aid initiatives; I can only imagine how challenging this new international crisis is and how fretful they are about being able to reach victims before more lives are lost. I am sorry to be a downer, or come off like a bleeding heart liberal… but these people need help. A lot of people need help, I know. But today, the victims of Typhoon Haiyan need it most.

If you have any links to add, please do so via a comment below. Thank you for tuning in.

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This post on People.com highlights several organizations making  appeals via Twitter.

Earlier today, I tweeted this link from nytimes.com, which provides a  comprehensive list of organizations and different ways they’re  collecting funds.

CNN.com also put out an additional list of resources. You’re going to  see duplicates across these lists, but there are a few new names as well.

Via WBTV.com and @AP, I found a few other organizations include AmeriCares, which is preparing to deploy an emergency response team and collecting donations at http://americares.org

Lutheran World Relief has deployed its local staff to stricken areas and is appealing for $2.5 million to aid its recovery effort. To donate, go to http://lwr.org/donate/

American Jewish World Service is collecting money to provide directly to local groups in the Philippines. To donate, go to http://www.ajws.org

ABC-7 in San Francisco put this list of resources out, which includes a link to Google Person Finder and Relief Map.

Since I live in Philadelphia and want the community to know what is happening locally on victims’ behalf, I am also including these links below:

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Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the Red Cross

Philippine Disaster and Recovery Foundation — Donations to typhoon relief can be made via Paypal at the national federation’s website at www.faapi.org

Finally, I just want to give a shout-out to Geeklist Corps of Developers,  which is working on a collaborative initiative to create technology  that will help coordinate rescue efforts and ensure that emergency  supplies and food get where they need to in an optimum amount of  time. You can read more here.

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The best holiday tradition: Simplicity

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The word “tradition” flies around as frequently as falling leaves this time of year, with more than half the universe assuming that “traditions” are the norm. They are for some, but there are plenty of people out there who never really grew up with holiday rituals. It’s a great excuse for adults to poke fun at their own parents, but also causes a bit of anxiety when years later, they’re put in charge of bringing special occasions and holidays to life.

Here’s the thing: traditions don’t have to be a big deal. And, they can be updated each year to fit in with your family’s changing size, ages, marital, financial or health situations. (Sorry to sound bleak, but hey, life happens.) And if you haven’t yet started a family (or don’t want to ,) ), you can still do all the things mentioned here, just with half the mess and half the noise.

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Your family’s tradition can be as simple as everyone piling into Mom and Dad’s bed with crayons and colored pencils, books, magazines, even tablets, and engaging in conversation about what’s happening in the world that morning, what kinds of foods the kids would rather eat than turkey and cranberries—and drawing a picture of said preferred meal; reading stories or poems aloud, or looking up new words (hence, the tablet); playing Go Fish, cribbage, gin rummy or backgammon; drafting a letter to Santa, making place cards for the table, or just snuggling and tickling and watching the Macy’s parade (or better yet, Sponge Bob) with breakfast popcorn (a mix of cereal and popcorn) and hot cocoa with marshmallows. This is especially wonderful when you’re not hosting or rushing out the door to get anywhere.

Other cheap, easy and fun ways to get in the holiday spirit, is to write a thank you letter to another family member (everyone can pull a name out of a cup and then big sisters/brothers and moms and dads can help the younger ones write to their drawn recipient). The letters can also be used as place cards, dressed up with a doodle or drawing of a turkey. (Thumbprints are perfect for making a turkey’s body.)

If you’re cool with getting a little messy, having the kids find rocks outside (they do need to run around a bit or they’ll drive you bonkers), and set out some washable paint so they can create colorful place markers that can be saved and used all year long.

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Older kids can design an official menu, then incorporate that into the festive tablescape you’ll put them in charge of laying out. While they’re looking for rocks, they can pick up twigs, feathers, acorns, leaves and anything else they fancy. With your help, they can decorate the table making them feel a part of the special celebration. If you’re bringing out any family heirlooms, now is the time to share stories about their history (the objects and the person who gave it to you).

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Jazz up each place setting with mini pumpkins, bundles of twigs and feathers (you can buy these at the craft store) tied with twine or raffia, clementines embellished with whole cloves (it’s a Martha Stewart rip-off that I can’t take credit for, but do every year because they make the house smell amazing). My kids also

always loved making baked apples or apple rings, and this is something they can do while your working on the turkey and trimmings.

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Speaking of turkey, one of the most coveted to-dos for kids as they get older (after they turn 14/15, the magic ends), is timing the turkey. They get to watch the clock, set the timer, help you baste the bird and get a lot of the credit when it is pulled out of the oven in all its juicy, mahogany glory. Designating someone as “candle lighter” always went over big at our house as well.

Less original, but requisite, is writing down what we are each thankful for and putting into a bowl, then everyone picking a slip of paper and reading it, guessing who wrote it. (Handwriting is usually a giveaway, but that doesn’t take away the fun.) We’ve also been known to go around the table and talk about what we weren’t thankful for that year, which is actually a positive and subtle way to encourage behavior change, tolerance, empathy, forgiveness and compassion.

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click image for recipe; photo is from the recipe’s mastermind: Cooking with Chopin

Last but not least is family movie night—or afternoon, while the turkey roasts—everyone votes on what to watch, someone makes the admission tickets and someone grabs the blankets. After all, this isn’t just a movie; it’s snug time.

And when all hell breaks loose, and everyone starts fighting, there’s only one more tradition to uphold: outside with a basketball or off for a walk. Mom gets to stay in and get a few minutes peace.

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Building a Healthy Young Athlete

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Every child deserves a healthy start, nutritionally, socially, academically and athletically. Which, is why CVS Caremark truly loves partnering with organizations that continually provide fun opportunities for kids of all abilities to grow healthy minds and bodies, and to learn and play together. Connecting parents to resources, and inspiring smiles along the way, is a daily goal for CVS Caremark All Kids Can program—one shared by Special Olympics.

Just a few weeks ago, CVS Caremark gave this hardworking organization its own reason to smile: a $50,000 grant to help expand Special Olympics’ Healthy Athletes Program, which prior to this grant, benefited special needs children and adults over the age of 8. Dedicated to providing health services and education to Special Olympics athletes, Healthy Athletes has enabled nearly 1.4 million athletes to obtain free, comprehensive health screenings.

The new initiative, aptly named Healthy Young Athletes, now empowers Special Olympics to serve families with children between 2-7 via age-appropriate healthcare services and support, and early childhood intervention and preventive education. This is critical for parents, who primarily rely on annual well-visits for information on their child’s health status, when during the year, things can change, particularly with sight and hearing.

On November 2, families from Chester, Northampton, Delaware and Philadelphia counties experienced the Healthy Young Athletes program in action at Special Olympics PA Fall Festival, held at Villanova University. CVS Caremark’s grant helped families attend the clinics and benefit from the health screenings.

Those participating in this kick-off event had the opportunity to engage their children in a variety of gross motor activities, including a get-to-know-you round of Duck, Duck, Goose; catch ’n’ toss, running in and around an obstacle course, and having a little fun with a giant parachute.

Krystina Steinhauser, a Northampton County mom, found out about the event through one of Special Olympics’ partners, Miracle League. Though her 7-year-old son, Dylan, who is autistic, began the day feeling a little shy, over the course of the morning, he and his twin sister romped around with the other children and energetic volunteers, whooping it up and wearing those big smiles that All Kids Can loves to see. One of the aspects Steinhauser appreciated most about the day, was the relaxed feel and co-mingling of children, college students and adults of all abilities.

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Helping families discover these inclusive opportunities is at the heart of what CVS Caremark All Kids Can’s mission. Anyone walking around Villanova’s campus during the fall festival, would not be able to miss the upbeat energy, camaraderie and good clean fun being shared by all.

Inside Villanova’s Kennedy Ellipse building, volunteer healthcare practitioners set up Special Smiles and Healthy Hearing screenings for its newest set of “patients,” who eagerly popped into chairs for traditional ear examinations and an otoacoustic emissions test, a type of hearing test that measures an acoustic response produced by the inner ear. Now administered within 48 hours of birth; this was a first for the children participating in the Healthy Young Athletes program. By helping Special Olympics expand its reach, CVS Caremark is making an impact on early detection and prevention for this “special” group of little people.

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Down the hall from the hearing screenings, children and their parents took part in what might have been the most exciting dental visit they’ve ever had. Coloring pages, word searches, brushing lessons, free toothbrushes, and make-and-take mouth guards… all were a hit with the kids. And while they scooped up all the goodies, moms and dads soaked up vital oral hygiene information and potential trouble spots being giving to them—for free—by volunteers from Temple and Villanova universities, and Randolph A. Philip AVT High School.

Following these screenings, diagnostics citing potential concerns are addressed with parents, so that immediate action can be taken—a significant benefit to families who might otherwise have a delay in obtaining appropriate, timely care.

CVS Caremark’s funding will result in double the number of Healthy Young Athlete events and screenings across the country in 2013-2014, and reach communities that have been underserved by Special Olympics due to financial constraints.

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Watching these partnerships in action, it’s quite clear that the prescription for healthy athletes of ALL abilities starts with collaborative initiatives such as these that create a sense of “family” on so many levels. At a time when nonprofit organizations are struggling to deliver quality services, grants like the one provided by CVS Caremark can make the difference in a child’s self esteem as well as his/her physical health. It takes a lot for children with disabilities to get to the finish line; being in optimum health shouldn’t be something families need to worry about.

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