Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Contest: Tony Roma's

Photo credit: Tony Roma's
Starting August 5, freebie lovers have a chance at giveaways from Tony Roma’s, including free Baby Back Ribs for a year. Tony Roma’s is asking guests to upload a photo of themselves eating ribs, using the hashtag #TRRibFace on Facebook. The rib face contest will run August 5 – September 2.
Every week for the duration of the campaign, contestants have the chance to win a $100 Tony Roma’s gift card. Each participating Tony Roma’s restaurant will then choose a grand prize winner, who is entitled to free Baby Back Ribs for one year.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Caring Causes: World Breastfeeding Week

Leading international humanitarian organization Action Against Hungeris raising awareness of an important cause, World Breastfeeding Week (August 1st-7th).World Breastfeeding Week advocates for the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding worldwide. At Action Against Hunger, they have seen tremendous success in teaching and promoting breastfeeding practices in the 45 countries we work in around the world.You can learn more with their series on mothers in Kenya who overcame cultural norms and brought health to their babies through breastfeeding -- in three parts, | 2 | 3.

I had a chance to interview Angeline Grant, Nutrition & Health Adviser at Action Against Hunger to learn more.

How does promoting breastfeeding work into what Action Against Hunger does?
The promotion of breastfeeding is central to Action Against Hunger’s work. As a leader in the fight against malnutrition, we save the lives of malnourished children around the world. The protection, promotion, and support of good nutrition and child development in emergency and non-emergency situations is at the heart of Action Against Hunger’s mission.
 We mainstream the promotion of breastfeeding, and infant and young child feeding more broadly, into our nutrition and health programs in both emergency and non-emergency contexts. We also implement specific programs for the protection and promotion of breastfeeding in certain situations. The was recently the case for the Nepal earthquake, where Action Against Hunger  set up breastfeeding corners in a number of key locations so that mothers and children affected by the earthquake could receive breastfeeding support and psychosocial care.
Breastmilk is a  safe and secure source of food for babies, instantly available, providing active protection against illness and keeping an infant warm and close to his or her mother, all for free. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of post-partum hemorrhage. We consider breastfeeding support to be a lifesaving humanitarian intervention in the contexts and countries that we work in. 

Why is it so important to educate mothers around the world about breastfeeding?
It is estimated that undernutrition accounts for nearly half (45%) of all global deaths in children under the age of five. Twelve percent of these, or more than 800,000 deaths annually, are attributable to sub-optimal breastfeeding. The essential role of breastfeeding and complementary feeding in child survival, growth, and development is backed by a weight of scientific evidence.
Exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old and continued breastfeeding until age two is considered one of the top  child survival interventions for effectiveness in preventing under-five mortality. Early initiation of breastfeeding also reduces the risk of neonatal and post-neonatal death and has a significant effect on reducing morbidity and mortality from diarrhea and pneumonia, two of the leading causes of child mortality in developing countries.

Why is it that breastfeeding isn't a cultural norm in some areas?
In some of the contexts where we work, particularly emergency contexts, breastfeeding practices may be disrupted. These may be due to misconceptions that women are unable to breastfeed in emergencies due to stress or trauma, or that women may be unable to breastfeed due to a lack of food for themselves. These misconceptions can be conveyed by a number of different individuals and can result in the undermining of locally-established breastfeeding practices. In addition, there may also be a number of culturally-specific customs and beliefs that influence care practices, including breastfeeding.

The misconceptions around the inability of women to breastfeed in emergencies, along with a sometimes well-intentioned belief that infant formula is an essential commodity in a humanitarian response, often leads to large quantities of breastmilk substitutes (BMS) and feeding equipment being donated and distributed in emergency contexts. Unfortunately this disrupts local breastfeeding practices. In emergency contexts the risks associated with not breastfeeding are multiplied due to the lack of water, the contamination of existing water sources, the difficulties in sterilizing bottles and teats, and lack of supporting resources such as fuel, cleaning equipment, cooking pots and refrigeration. This  can significantly endanger infant and young children’s health.

At Action Against Hunger we aim to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding and appropriate infant and young child feeding in emergencies. We provide breastfeeding counselling, psychosocial and nutritional support to mothers in emergency contexts to support them to continue breastfeeding their children.

Photo credit: Titus Mung'ou, Action Against Hunger-Kenya
In a number of contexts where we work, particularly sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, breastfeeding is a cultural norm. Breastfeeding is traditionally practiced however exclusive breastfeeding rates are often low. Young infants are often given water, food, or traditional medicines in addition to breastmilk. In the contexts where we work providing additional liquids or food, besides breastmilk, to a child under six months old is a major cause of infant morbidity (particularly diarrhea). Low levels of exclusive breastfeeding are a major contributor  to the high rates of child morbidity and mortality  in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia.

What can readers do to help support your work?
Visit our website, read more about our activities to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding on our blog, and learn about the ways you can engage and support Action Against Hunger by visiting our Take Action area.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Fun Freetime: Young Monster Training Camp at Home

Try out these ideas to bring the fun of Hotel Transylvania 2 home!

World Wisdom: Common Ground ND Banquet in a Fild

CommonGround North Dakota is hosting its second annual Banquet in a Field (#BanquetInAField15) event on Tuesday, August 4 to ignite conversations about North Dakota food and farming among the people of Cass County and Fargo community. Located at Peterson Farms Seed, near Harwood, N.D., Banquet in a Field is to create open dialogue between women who grow food and the women who buy it. The dinner, featuring 11 crops and three meats all from North Dakota farms, will educate guests of the contribution local agriculture has on the state and give attendees the chance to connect with CommonGround volunteers, the women who work to bring clarity to discussions about food and farming.

As part of the event, there is a designated media tent where four CommonGround North Dakota farm volunteers  (listed below) will be available for interviews – fielding questions about farm living, farm practices and food production. 
  • Who: CommonGround North Dakota farm representatives available for interviews –  including Julie Peterson, farm hostess of Peterson Farms Seed, Teresa Dvorak of Manning, N.D.; Katie Pinke of Wishek, N.D.; Ronda Throener of Cogswell, N.D.; Tracie Wiegel of Lehr, N.D.; Sarah Wilson of Jamestown, N.D.; and Polly Ulrich of Ashley, N.D.
  • What: Interview and photo opportunity at Banquet on a Field to discuss North Dakota farming practices and food production with five farming women.
  • When: Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015; farm women (listed above) will be available in the designated media tent 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Where: Peterson Farms Seed -- 3104 164th Ave SE, Harwood, ND 58042

Follow the #BanquetInAField15 on Twitter and Instagram for event updates and photos.

Banquet in a Field is supported by a broad-based coalition of organizations including AdFarm, AgCountry, Napoleon Livestock, North Dakota Beef Commission, North Dakota FFA Foundation, North Dakota Corn Growers Association, North Dakota Lamb & Wool Producers Association, North Dakota Pork Council, North Dakota Soybean Council, North Dakota Soybean Growers Association, North Dakota Wheat Commission, Northarvest Bean Growers Association, Peterson Farms Seed and Sarello’s Culinary Events and Meeting Center.

About CommonGround North Dakota
A CommonGround is a national movement of farm women who want to share information about farming and the food they grow. Consumers in the cities and suburbs are more disconnected from farm life than ever before, and that disconnect has led to misconceptions about modern farming and the people behind it. CommonGround is a group of North Dakota farm women working to help dispel myths and build trust in farm families again.

Fun Freetime: TV Everywhere

Summertime and the viewing is easy… thanks to TV Everywhere (TVe).  Viewers can watch their favorite comedy series, compelling dramas and reality shows – while staying up-to-date on can’t-miss sporting events this summer!  
With hundreds of hours of programming – including live sports, news and current/recent seasons of the most popular series on TV – now available via #tveverywhere sites and mobile apps from more than 100 TV networks, viewers won’t skip a beat while traveling, on the beach or otherwise on-the-go.  With TVe, cable subscribers can login and stream at no additional cost, and see the latest programs from A&E, HISTORY, Lifetime, Nat Geo, Fox Sports, Big Ten Network, HBO, Food, Travel, TNT, TBS, TCM, Comedy Central, CMT, MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Univision, NBC networks and more.
More information, including links to most cable company’s TVe sites, is available at

Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Nook: Think Like a Baby - 33 Simple Experiments You Can Do at Home to Better Understand Your Child's Developing Mind

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

The Science Museum of Minnesota currently has an exhibit about how kids develop. It's been fun to see my girls interact with things on the exhibit as we've visited over the years, to see how their understanding changes and matches the developmental stages described in the exhibit. As someone who studied basic psychology and cognitive development while getting my teaching degree, it's also been fun to see that development in my own children. Having an understanding of developmental milestones really does help when parenting, to make age-appropriate decisions and understand behavior - both good and bad.

That's the idea behind Think Like a Baby: 33 Simple Research Experiments You Can Do at Home to Better Understand Your Child's Developing Mind. Amber Ankowski, PhD, and her husband Andy Ankowski (co-founders of the blog The Doctor and the Dad) write a series of things to do at home to re-create some classic child development experiments. Being able to see things in person is so much more helpful than reading about them, and they make it easy to do so, using common household objects to understand how your kid is thinking.

But they go beyond the theoretical and into the practical. After each experiment, they relate the real-life implications of the experiment, with tips on appropriate toys, how to appeal to kid logic, and more. The book is easy to read, with clear explanations that can be easily understood by anyone, with or without any knowledge of child psychology. The experiments are fun, and actually apply up into early childhood, so I was able to do some with my own kids at age five and seven. They enjoyed it as much as I did, and it's always nice to see what your kids can't express themselves.

Book Nook: A Comedy and a Tragedy - A Memoir of Learning How to Read and Write

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own. 

A COMEDY & A TRAGEDY: A Memoir of Learning How to Read and Write by Travis Hugh Culley shares his story of slipping through the cracks in school, hiding his illiteracy and struggling with depression, anxiety, and dyslexia. Later, arts and humanities programs inspired him to be successful in education, and through theater, he realizes the power of being able to read. As a teacher, this book was hard to read - have I let a kid slip through the cracks that I should have helped? It's also encouraging, hearing the story of how one student overcame the odds to be highly successful, and provides hope that others can do the same.

I had a chance to interview Travis to learn more.
  1. What inspired you to share your story?
My journey through education was not just difficult, or uncommon, it was horrendous. My school was overcrowded, and I wasn’t safe from abuse or humiliation when I came home. My parents never taught my brother and myself to get along or to work out our issues, so even at home, I had no relief.
After the completion of The Immortal Class, my first book, I decided that I needed to unravel these difficult and complex experiences that I went through in childhood, and tell the story of how I came to be a published author after many years of rejecting and refusing the power of the written word.
  1. How did you manage to continue to pass through grades without being able to read?
I thought it was my smile, maybe. In the cultural environment where I lived, I suppose a certain element of prejudice made it possible for me to narrowly pass from grade to grade without having my vulnerabilities understood. Teachers weren’t close enough to catch my thinking process in the classroom. My third grade teacher did discover my effort to conceal my thinking process from her, but she did not understand that my lack of focus and distractibility were only evidence of my inability to read. I became unwilling to try.
  1. Why were the arts successful in giving you literacy?
When I came upon the prospect of doing theater, of performing in a juggling troupe and acting in plays, it was rewarding to find that I now had an open field to explore. I was no longer being measured by the right or wrong way to approach the material. Standards were not based on pre-established answers to tests. In the theater, standards of “good” and “bad” were based on creative thinking skills and understanding situations. No longer did I need to have the right answers. Now, I only had to get a reaction from my audience. Under these more liberal circumstances, I was able to interact more freely with fellow students and I could begin to learn in the context of my peers, in the changing contexts which the theater made available. Learning at this level was based on my own interest and investment. I think, the moment I was given a real chance to think for myself, I had also been given my first chance to succeed.
  1. What advice do you have for parents in schools where the arts are being cut?
We cannot allow schools to reduce the arts to extras and electives. I think the arts and humanities are essential to a good education because they teach, in non-theoretical terms, the importance of critical thinking and collaboration. It is only in the arts and humanities that students are given the chance to teach themselves, and to learn at a pace that is right for them. The arts are an opportunity for students to learn directly from the world as it is and seems to them. This can mean therapy to the vulnerable, and it can mean solidarity to the misinformed. In one way or another, the arts give students power over the meaning of what they doing in school.
  1. What do you wish your teachers would have done differently?
Photo by Megan Hickling
I went to a number of different schools, and I am lucky to have done so. In some classes, I had teachers who went by the book, and in other classes I had teachers who never opened books. Looking back, I think I learned more from the teachers who dared to keep the books closed long enough to relay honestly the context of the lesson. I had teachers who were willing to be truthful about what we were learning, and this allowed me to look into the books when the time came for me to see their value. 

I think teachers everywhere need to approach their classrooms with the same kind of creativity and openness that I found at New World School of the Arts. It was not an unstructured learning opportunity. It was more like a curriculum of self discovery. I agree with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Tolstoy, and Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori. Play is the best part of experience, and so I believe that learning should take place in a space that is open to experimentation and truthfulness. Only this way will students take the most important step: trusting their teachers to learn. 

Until he was seventeen, critically acclaimed writer Travis Hugh Culley could neither read nor write. The child of an abusive father and an emotionally absent mother, Travis struggled in school, inventing creative strategies to hide his illiteracy. Shaken by a traumatic incident one summer, Travis withdrew further, cutting classes and running away from home to learn on his own terms. A COMEDY & A TRAGEDY: A Memoir of Learning How to Read and Write (Ballantine Hardcover) is author and playwright Travis Hugh Culley’s vividly powerful memoir of his long and arduous journey to literacy. Overcoming abuse, a negligent family, a broken public school system and an undiagnosed learning disability, Travis’s is the true underdog story—by turns hilarious and heartbreaking.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Giveaway: The Apologetics Study Bible for Students

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.
 The Apologetics Study Bible for Students is a comprehensive guide to the Bible. What I appreciated most were the questions and answers. For example, right away in Genesis comes the question, "How old is the earth?" It was handled in a way that Christians of all denominations could be satisfied. Another notable feature is the inclusion of sixty examples of twisted or distorted Scripture passages. It's not only appropriate for students diving deeper into the Bible, but for adults seeking to learn more. After all, aren't we all students? I love Apologetics, because it's a very logical way to approach faith, and that appeals to the math side of me. This Bible really does a good job of going beyond just the Word to provide deeper insight, thereby providing a stronger, more confident faith.

This summer, the gift of Confident Faith is being celebrated with 16 brand new, but energetic and brief videos featuring Sean McDowell, free resources like Bible studies and articles as well as wonderful specials on apps and Bibles. In addition, a Confident Faith Sweepstakes is being offered to give away Bibles, free mini libraries of B&H's best apologetics resources and even a trip for two to the National Conference on Christian Apologetics (NCCA) being held October 16-17, 2015 in Charlotte, NC where some of the world's leading thinkers will offer insights and teaching.

The videos cover some pretty pertinent topics - is it ok to doubt, the Bible's view of women, homosexuality. I thought they were handled quite well, and even if your personal viewpoint differs from that of the videos, it's really a good idea to have a fully informed opinion by listening to rational arguments from the opposite side as well. Sean McDowell is an energetic educator and author who isn't afraid to tackle the tough questions.
I have a chance to give away a copy of The Apologetics Bible. To enter, leave a comment with your toughest faith question you'd hope to see answered. Deadline is July 29th.

Giveaway: Pure Canada Maple

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Maple syrup is kind of a gold standard for pancakes, and nothing beats the taste of pure maple (as opposed to maple-flavored). I've also used syrup in cookie and cake recipes, and once in a while in savory dishes (try drizzling it over bacon and then oven-baking - delicious!)

However, the folks at Pure Canada Maple also have some other recipes for desserts, main courses, beverages, breakfast, and appetizers. You can even use it in cocktails, such as this Maple Margarita:

Curious to try more? They have a fun interactive maple cocktail game to pair you with one of 40 refreshing cocktails. I have a chance to give away a sample so you can try your favorite. To enter, leave a comment with which drink suits you best. Deadline is July 29th.