Saturday, July 26, 2008

New Classics Challenge

My sister posted about a literary challenge that she found on Lost in a Good Story.

I love to read, am in a book club, but still can't get's great to have a list to build from.
The full list of 'New Classics' is here. Following, in bold, are those I've already read along with the six, in italics, that I've chosen to read and review by January 2009. As I read them, I'll review them and then in January I'll write a post about the one that I liked the most. Lost in a Good Story will mail to a random winner a copy of their favorite book.

I found it really hard to narrow it down to the six I'll review. This is going to be a great challenge! Come join the fun.

3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

This is cross posted at Sex and the Knitty.

If anyone knows how to create a button, Joanna has requested help, so contact her about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Snacktivate Fun!

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3, 2, 1 Snacktivate!

As I was transferring diaper bags the other day, I pulled out a not-so-fresh bag of raisins from the bottom of one bag, along with about five packets of fruit snacks and a couple of granola bars. I tossed the raisins, but kept the other snacks with me because one thing is certain when you're out and about; H will be hungry.

When we first moved here and H had his first dental exam, they commented on his beautiful teeth and asked if he had fruit snacks, fruit roll-ups or other sugary, sticky snacks. I smugly replied that I, of course, had not allowed my cherub to ingest such things. They encouraged me to continue the denial of dental disasters and said to keep up the good work.

Weeeeell, this was all before I had been an at-home mom for any significant period of time. After attending several play-dates and lunches, it was clear that fruit snacks would be a part of our life, as it was not one of the battles I would be choosing.

Having quick, relatively healthy and convenient snacks has become an essential to our on the go lifestyle, so I was excited when I received an email from MomCentral about Snacktivate, a new snacking initiative from Kellogg. They have teamed up with family life expert Deb Geigis Berry and Registered Dietitian Rachel Brandeis to create a snack time experience that is healthy and fun. The basis of the initiative is that snack time should be taken advantage of as a time to teach your kids a little about being in the kitchen, preparing food, and making healthier decisions, while having a good time and expressing creativity.

I received a package in the mail, containing two full-sized boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats (a cereal that my family buys in bulk at BJ's because it's one of our faves), along with a recipe for a variation of peanut butter cookies using crushed mini wheats along with the dry ingredients and a further variation to make them into a fun craft; Sassy Sun Pops. The goody bag also had a snack cup which has a folding spoon and a bottom portion that you put in the freezer so it will keep your milk cold and you can mix it all together at your destination. This would have been oh-so-useful when I was working and taking my breakfast to work with me. At the time, I usually just ate the mini wheats dry as I sucked down my Starbucks stand-by; a Triple Venti Non-Fat Latte while strapped to the phones and computer. But I digress...

On the website there are twelve recipes, all of which are also fun craft activities to do with your kids. Depending on the age of your child, their level of hands-on involvement will vary. The site also provides a listing of approximate tasks that kids can help with given their age range. For my own little knitty household, a one-butt kitchen and carpet in the eating area narrows how much of the messy stuff H gets to help with, but I let him do as much as possible.

Last night, while H was eating dinner, I mixed up a batch of the Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies. H was ecstatic because he got to use the flat side of the meat tenderizer to crumble the mini-wheats in a quart-sized freezer solution to not having to dirty the blender or food processor. It's amazing what ingenuity comes from laziness, and H got to have fun as well.

While the recipe that I prepared would definitely be considered a treat, it's more healthy than standard chocolate chip cookies, or even the regular peanut butter cookies that wouldn't have the added fiber from the Mini Wheats. I was afraid they were going to end up really dry, from the mini wheats, but they turned out to be really yummy! H and J both gave their seal of approval as well.

I encourage you to take a look at the Snacktivate Recipe site and try a couple of them out. It's obviously going to be heavy on brand-power, as the recipes all use at least one product from the Kellogg's family; they are the company that created the site, after all, but it certainly provides a great jumping-off point to begin a healthy and fun tradition for snack time in your family. Keep in mind that in addition to the create-'em yourself projects, Kellogg has a host of portable snacks.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Lighter Shade of Green

When I was about six months pregnant with C, and was scouring the tub, I realized that I don't love the smell of the bathroom cleaners that I'm using. Or the fact that I feel like I have to leave the vent fan on for several hours after completing the job...or that I felt slightly light-headed, which could have been the pregnancy alone.

I decided that it was time to start investigating more earth (read: small children) friendly cleaning products. After asking the opinion of several of my amigos verdes, I came home from the market with a bagful of replacements. I did not, however, toss my others, I used them first...sorry, it's the new fiscally conservative Sally HP.

I kept asking people if they would work better, since they were generally more expensive, but then just settled with the fact that as long as they worked as well, I'd be happy with it.

I was watching the documentary King Corn the other night, and the cattle rancher being interviewed stated that if people wanted only grass-fed beef, they'd be happy to supply it, but the demand for cheap corn-fed beef is outrageously high.

I started to think about it and (now, I am not a business major, so please feel free to comment if I'm wrong) I realized that if more and more people buy the green products, then it may result in an eventual decrease in price. Obviously this isn't the case for all things, just look at our outrageous fuel costs right now, and demand has certainly not decreased. However, if it's a domestic product (like beef or cleaners) over which we maintain control, my little purchases may someday make a difference in the eventual price.

In this same vein, I was recently offered the chance to try Recycline Preserve toothbrushes, which are made from high quality pre and post-consumer recycled (BPA and pthalate-free) plastics. In addition, to help keep the cycle going, Recycline will provide a postage paid label on their website so you can send the used product to be made into recycled plastic lumber...pretty cool. The good thing is that they really aren't more expensive than normal brushes, coming in at just over $2 at Target.

If you'd like a chance to be the proud owner of your very own Preserve toothbrush, leave a comment for me with something that you do to be a little more 'green'. In order to have a real test for the efficacy, I'll add a $5 Starbucks card (nothin' like tea and coffee stains) to each of the two winners who will be selected on July 25th.

If you don't win, click here and you'll be taken to MomCentral, where you can find the full Recycline information, along with a coupon for $1 off the purchase of two brushes.
This review was cross-posted on my original blog Sex and the Knitty, at which readers commented.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Strawberry Fields...

Having a birthday so close to the Fourth of July has always been fun for me, both because of the fun pool parties, but more because I love summer. Summer food, summer activities, water sports, everything summer. Although, if we're being honest here, because I'm a very sweaty person (and self-conscious about it) it was not until recently that I've learned to just embrace the heat.

I was shopping at the grocery store the other day, looking for a good dessert as I was hosting the board meeting for my mom's group that night. When I first entered the store, the produce section was calling to me with brightly colored sale signs. The first stand I came to had strawberries; buy one get TWO free! Sweet, strawberry shortcake it is!

I had recently received an email about the plentiful harvest that California growers are experiencing this year, so glanced at the package and noted that, sure enough, they were grown in sunny California. I got home and started slicing away, placing the pretty berries in my prized brightly colored nesting bowl from Crate & Barrel. After adding a tiny bit of sugar and stirring them to get a little juice going, I covered the berries and left them on the counter to 'mellow' until the meeting started.

When everyone came, I had a store-bought pound cake arranged in pretty slices on my Fiestaware bread plate, the bowl o' berries and a can of whipped cream. How is it that something so simple tastes so good? I love that summer is all about simplicity, and when you start with something yummy and sweet like a strawberry, you really don't have to add much more.

Never one to forget about the kiddies, the California Strawberry Commission has a section of their site called Strawberryville full of games, facts and fun. The strawberry 'school' has sections designated to kids aged 5-7 and 8-12.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summertiiiiiiiime, and the Livin's Easy...

I was watching The Today Show this morning and they had a segment on summer safety tips, in which they talked about the dangers of digging large sand holes at the beach. It was pretty alarming and while they noted that research shows the incidences of sand hole deaths are pretty rare, they are more prevalent than shark attacks. (We still look for sharks, don't we?) For more information you can click here.

I liked that the segment wasn't alarmist, but was a gentle reminder that we need to keep our eyes on the sand as well as the water when our kids are playing. It was good timing because I know that sometimes I'm content to just let H play while I visit with the other moms and when there are several kids together, digging a hole can quickly lead to digging a large crater.

In that same vein, I was checking out the MommyDocs website, which has a ton of great information, including a featured article sponsored by Clorox; Five Simple Summer Safety Tips. They all were fairly common sense, but I guess that's the point. In an era where common sense isn't so common (a la 3rd degree sun burns when a parent or caregiver neglects to apply sunscreen to a child in the scorching sun) it never hurts to be reminded.

According to MommyDocs, a lot of summer woes can be avoided by following these five tips :

1. Have a Sun Protection Strategy
2. Keep Pests off Your Little One
3. Keep the Pool Cool and Clean (with the added Safety must: Always supervise children regardless of age when they are around any water; whether it's a bucket, a small backyard plastic pool, or the local community pool.)
4. High Heat Means Hydrate
5. Rid Rashes and Relieve Itchies

With just a little bit of preparation, you can have hours of fun in the sun, while at the same time establishing good habits for your kids. The days of slathering yourself in Crisco and laying on tin foil are g-o-n-e gone, and it's important for kids to be in the routine of applying sunscreen before leaving the house and during their activity in the hopes that they won't have to (obsessively, anyway) inspect their bodies in 20 years, looking for moles and other signs of skin cancer.

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