Monday, October 20, 2014

Consumer Critique: From Sea to Shining Sea

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

The Ellis the Elephant series is a cute way for children to learn about important historical events in our nation. The newest book, From Sea to ShiningSea, takes Ellis the Elephant along the great expedition of Lewis and Clark. He learns about the Louisiana Purchase and how it expanded the United States from thirteen colonies along the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific. He also learns how inventors developed technologies like the steamboat to power America’s expansion.

I loved this book. As a homeschooling mom, it's fun to see things I can incorporate into the day that are educational and kid-friendly. My girls enjoyed the book too, and even my younger daughter, age five, paid attention throughout the whole story. My older daughter, age seven, loved telling her dad what she learned when he got home.

I had a chance to interview the author to learn more.

What was the inspiration behind creating the Ellis the Elephant series?
Americans of any age come to truly love America when they understand its history, because an honest study of our past teaches that the United States has been one of the greatest forces for good in human history. In many schools, however, our children are learning a somewhat negative version of our history that focuses on what is wrong with America. I love our country, and I wanted to help teach children about why America really is an exceptional nation. Ellis the Elephant, my time-travelling pachyderm, is a wonderful friend for children--and sometimes adults--to discover important moments in our history. It has been very rewarding to see how much kids love Ellis.

Why is From Sea to Shining Sea important for young readers?
The early years following the American revolution were a formative period in our country’s history. At the beginning of George Washington’s presidency in 1789, the United States was a small cluster of former British colonies on the Atlantic Ocean. By the end of Thomas Jefferson’s administration in 1809, it was a nation spanning from coast to coast. Courage, determination, and a pioneering spirit came to define America during this time--and these characteristics have endured for more than 200 years. From Sea to Shining Sea introduces young readers to this pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

Why was the Lewis and Clark Expedition so important?
The Lewis and Clark Expedition was the most important expedition in American history. After nearly doubling the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson sent the Corps of Discovery, led by Lewis and Clark, to explore the new territory and map a route to the Pacific Ocean. When they departed, 2 out of 3 Americans lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. The explorers became the first American citizens to cross the Continental Divide and discover just how big a continent this is. In the years that followed, millions of Americans followed their lead and moved west. The Lewis and Clark expedition was the start of American’s looking to the West for their future.

What are some of the surprising things you learned?
I was surprised to learn that Meriwether Lewis actually helped deliver Sacagawea’s first baby when the explorers were camped for the winter at Fort Mandan in 1805. It was also interesting to learn that during an important decision to relocate their winter camp on the Pacific coast in November 1805, both Sacagawea and Clark’s slave, York, were allowed to vote.  This may have been the first time in our history that both a woman and a slave were allowed to vote.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sweepstakes: Bahlsen Cookies

Bahlsen, a leading European cookie company, has launched their first Facebook promotion that they've ever had in the US!  “Gettin’ Waffeletten” is an "instant win-win" whereby fans win 2 boxes of Bahlsen Waffeletten cookies, one for them and one for a friend.  They're amazing cookies, made with a wafer as crunchy and golden as a Belgian waffle, rolled into fine crisp layers, and then dipped into the richest dark or milk European Chocolate. Bahlsen is the #1 brand in Germany and largest family-owned cookie brand in the world!

Simply like them on Facebook, and you can enter to win!

Consumer Critique: Green Virgin Moringa

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

Did you know that Moringa is the most nutrient-dense plant in the world? It has more vitamins, minerals, proteins, anti-oxidants and amino-acids than any other food in the world. The Food & Agricultural Organization website defines Moringa as follows:

     Moringa is a genus of shrubs and trees with multi-purpose uses: its leaves, roots and              immature pods are consumed as a vegetable. All parts of the moringa tree are edible. The      leaves are used fresh or dried and ground into powder.

Although fresh leaves are very high in nutrition, dried moringa leaf powder contains the highest nutritional content. Just look at these incredible comparisons:
  • 10x the Vitamin A of carrots
  • 17x the Calcium of milk
  • 15x the Potassium of bananas
  • 25x the Iron of spinach
  • 9x the Protein of yogurt
  • 4x more Fiber than oats
  • 1/2 the Vitamin C of oranges
According to WebMD,

     Moringa is an important food source in some parts of the world. Because it can be grown        cheaply and easily, and the leaves retain lots of vitamins and minerals when dried,                  moringa is used in India and Africa in feeding programs to fight malnutrition…It’s also used      for “tired blood” (anemia); arthritis and other joint pain (rheumatism); asthma; cancer;              constipation; diabetes; diarrhea; epilepsy; stomach pain; stomach and intestinal ulcers;            intestinal spasms; headache; heart problems; high blood pressure; kidney stones; fluid            retention; thyroid disorders; and bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections…

Moringa comes in many different forms, powder, tea, oil, capsules and more. When purchasing, you need to make sure you're getting 100% leaf powder, not a blend of Moringa with other things that may not be as beneficial. Packaging is also important - to stay nutrient-dense, Moringa needs to be packaged in oxygen-free packaging that blocks all light.

Green Virgin Products uses pure leaf powder, and has a three-layer resealable pouch that shuts out all light and prevents oxidation. Moringa contains no caffeine, but provides alertness. It can also be used in many recipes

I had a chance to try Moringa out. It didn't make me jittery at all, but did a really good job at providing a sense of alertness. It was also really easy to incorporate in recipes, and was virtually tasteless.

About Green Virgin Products
Green Virgin Products is a family-owned business created in 2009 to fulfill a specific need in the marketplace. Ken Marion, founder, lost his brother to cancer, and is a cancer survivor himself.  These experiences were the foundation of the Marion family’s vision—to provide high quality, non-toxic, eco-friendly products that actually work, and can save money compared to the toxic polluting products.

Green Virgin Products is dedicated to selling only completely non-toxic and eco-friendly products.  Based in Tampa, FL, Green Virgin Products are currently available online.  For more information and special offers, go to and become a fan on Facebook at

Green Virgin Products – Because Children Deserve a Pristine Planet! TM  

Mealtime Magic: Arla Dofino Havarti Cheese

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

I recently got a chance through BzzAgent to try out some Arla Dofino cheese. I used the Havarti cheese to melt with tomatoes and rice and it was delicious - good texture, melted smoothly. I think I want to make this Gouda Havarti Mac & Cheese next!


  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups shredded Arla® Dofino® Creamy Havarti Chunk
  • 3 cups shredded Arla® Dofino® Gouda Wedge
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or any short pasta noodle
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)


In a deep bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add mustard and flour. Whisk briskly for about 2 minutes to cook the flour. Pour in milk, whisking continuously to prevent any lumps. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in cheese until smooth and add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain the water and pour the pasta into the pot with the cheese sauce.
In a preheated 350°F oven, bake the mac & cheese in a casserole or 4-quart baking dish for 30 minutes to firm up.
Optional: Sprinkle each serving with breadcrumbs and chopped parsley.

Caring Causes: Tasty Gifts that Do Good

Championing convenience, gift cards topped the list of popular holiday gifts for 2013 ( Inspire your readers to get creative this holiday season by giving their friends and loved ones delicious, poverty-fighting holiday gifts from the 2014 World Vision Gift Catalog. More than 250 items, ranging in price from $10 to $39,000, are available online and in the print catalog to help improve quality of life for women, children and families in the U.S. and around the world. When you give where it is needed most, you can receive handcrafted gifts that are perfect for holiday baking or entertaining:
Prosperity Cinnamon: Know a friend or family member who loves to bake? Each beautifully-carved cinnamon bark box contains 3 oz. of cinnamon and bears a common Asian character for prosperity. Vietnam's renowned sweet cinnamon is a renewable resource collected from the Cassia tree, sold to benefit generations of hard-working families. $85 
Fair-Trade Coffee Set: For the coffee lover, this 12 oz. coffee set is blended by, using delicious flavors from Ethiopia, Sumatra, and Costa Rica, and is delivered in a gift bag of African fabric hand-sewn by local women. $65 
Hand-Carved Serving Spoons: A perfect gift for holiday entertaining, each beautiful set of two hand-carved olivewood serving spoons is delivered in a gift bag of African fabric hand-sewn by local women. The serving spoons are made to benefit orphans of the Kamba tribe in Kenya. $65  

I have given the spoons as a gift in the past, and they were absolutely beautiful. It's a great way to get something for the person who's hard to shop for, while providing a strong benefit for people around the world! 

Thrifty Thinking: Non-traditional Ways to Save for College

In a recent post, To College or Not to College, the author asks if college, with all of its rising costs, is still worth it.

I think college is worth it, as long as students are smart about keeping costs down. Graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in debt makes it hard to see the financial benefit of a degree. However, graduating from college without any debt makes the return on investment pay out sooner. Here are some things you and your student can do to keep college costs down - some of them often overlooked.

1) Scholarships and grants. There are many scholarships out there that people don't know about. When I was a senior, I spent every Thursday afternoon in my school counselor's office skimming all the new announcements she'd gotten and working on the applications. The little ones added up, and many have non-traditional requirements, like living in a certain area, going into a certain program, or even being left-handed! Of course, good grades do help with big scholarships from the college itself.
2) Post-secondary/dual enrollment/AP/IB. Minnesota has an option that allows high school students to be enrolled in college tuition-free. Other places offer dual enrollment in high school and college. Advanced Placement® and International Baccalaureate classes also allow students to take a test that often gets them college credit. CLEP testing is also an option to test out of lower-level classes.
3) Community colleges. These are very low-cost compared to private schools and are a great way to get general classes out of the way. Do your research to make sure credits will transfer to your planned institution.
4) Military. It's not for everyone, but there are military scholarships available, and educational benefits available for those who have enlisted as well.
5) College jobs. Working on-campus is convenient, and may not pay as well as other jobs, but requires less transporation and is often more flexible. Some jobs, such as being an RA or working in food service, provide a discount on housing.

Caring Causes: Afterschool Programs

Rising participation among students and high satisfaction with afterschool programs among parents is driving progress in meeting the need for afterschool programs in Minnesota, according to a new household survey commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance. But the 2014 edition of America After 3PM also shows that demand for afterschool programs in Minnesota still far exceeds supply, and the number of children who would participate if an afterschool program were available exceeds the number of children currently enrolled in afterschool programs in the state.

In important respects, Minnesota results mirror the national survey findings, which include:
  • Participation in afterschool programs is up nationally, with 18 percent of the nation’s schoolchildren in programs (10.2 million children), up from 15 percent in 2009 (8.4 million children) and 11 percent in 2004 (6.5 million children).
  • At the same time, unmet demand has increased. The parents of nearly 20 million children (19.4 million) say they would enroll their child in an afterschool program if a program were available to them. That means that the existing supply of afterschool programs is meeting barely one-third of demand.
  • Demand is greatest among African American, Hispanic and low-income families. Both participation in afterschool and unmet demand for afterschool are much higher among children from low-income households than higher-income households, and higher among African American and Hispanic children than white children. The parents of 60 percent of the nation’s African American children would enroll their child in a program if one were available, as would the parents of 57 percent of Latino children. The same is true of 35 percent of white children.
  • Despite increased participation in afterschool, the number of children unsupervised in the hours after school remains high. Across the nation, more than 800,000 elementary students, and 2.2 million middle school students spend time alone and unsupervised during the after school hours. In all, 11.3 million children — one in five — are unsupervised in the afternoons.
  • Parental satisfaction with afterschool remains high. Nine in ten parents (89 percent) say they are satisfied with their child’s afterschool program.
  • Support for public funding of afterschool programs remains strong. More than four in five parents (84 percent) report that they favor public funding for afterschool opportunities in communities that have few opportunities for children and youth. Support is bipartisan, as well, with 91 percent of parents who identify as Democrats, 86 percent Independents and 80 percent of Republicans favoring public funding for programs. Parents across all geographic regions support public funding for afterschool programs.

On October 23, more than 1 million people in communities across the nation and at U.S. military installations worldwide will join the only national rally for afterschool programs. Sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance and now in its 15th year, Lights On Afterschool brings communities together for science fairs, fun runs, community service events, music and dance performances, open houses and other events at schools, community centers, malls, parks and recreation centers, science museums, state capitols, and other settings. Find a local Lights On Afterschool event at

America After 3PM is funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, with additional support from the Heinz Endowments, The Robert Bowne Foundation and the Samueli Foundation.
The Afterschool Alliance is a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality afterschool programs. More information is available at

Friday, October 17, 2014

Healthy Habits: How to REALLY Build Muscle-Forget 3 Sets of 10 Reps

If you have ever stepped into a gym, most like you’ve used the old school method of 3 sets with 10 reps to try and build muscle.  Then, 90% of you won’t return after a month because you don’t see any gains. Of course not! Think about what you’re doing. In order for a muscle to increase in size you have to first break it down. You’re not going to accomplish that will 3 measly sets of a weight you can lift 10 times.
If you really want to build muscle, try the method fitness coach Chad Waterbury advocates in his book Huge in a Hurry. At first I was skeptical to try this method I am about to describe, but now I am a true believer.
If you want to accelerate your muscle growth, try this method. First pick an exercise you want to do, then find a weight that you can lift 6 times. This step is often the cause of mistakes. Most bodybuilders at this point will pick a weight they can lift 10 times and use this as the weight they can lift 6 times. I want you to truly pick a weight that you can lift only 6 times, and you should be struggling on that sixth rep. Once you have determined that weight, your first set is to lift it 6 times. Rest for 30 seconds and then repeat with that same weight for your second set. Don’t worry; you probably won’t lift that weight 6 times your second set, in fact, if you do, you didn’t choose a heavy enough weight. Continue to bang out sets with that same weight until you reach a total of 30 reps.
You should do only one exercise per muscle group and don’t overtrain. This doesn’t have to be your whole workout, but after you complete 30 reps, try not to do any more exercises with that muscle group for a few days.
Post provided by Mike Volkin.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Smart Safety: Cordless Options for Children's Windows

The Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC), a coalition of major U.S. manufacturers, importers and retailers of window coverings dedicated to educating parents and caregivers to only use cordless window covering products in homes with young children, has partnered with interior design expert and TV personality, Kim Myles.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), corded window coverings are one of the top five hidden dangers in American homes, with infants and children dying each year from accidently strangling in window cords.  Do-It-Yourself designer Kim Myles has partnered with the Council to help promote and demonstrate affordable, fun ways in which families can incorporate cordless products into a child’s room while ensuring cord safety. 

 “I am thrilled to partner with the Window Covering Safety Council to help raise awareness around cord safety in the homes with young children, and help families find ways to incorporate style while creating a safe environment for their loved ones,” said Kim Myles, Designer and OWN’s TV personality. “Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, there are several simple ways to redesign your living space so it is safe for kids.”

Kim Myles was voted by millions of Americans as the 2007 winner of HGTV’s “Design Star”, and her creative spark ignited her own show on HGTV called “Myles of Style” for three seasons. You can find Kim’s stylish designs on OWN’s Emmy nominated “Home Made Simple” and by flipping through InStyle, Better Homes and Gardens, and People magazines. Kim has also appeared as a host and designer on shows like “HGTV’d” and “America’s Biggest Yard Sale.” 

 “We look forward to working with Kim Myles on our cord safety consumer awareness program, leveraging her distinct design expertise to bring parents and caregivers decor tips that also foster a safe environment for young children,” said Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) Executive Director, Peter Rush.   

For more information visit and connect with WCSC on Facebook and Twitter for more home safety ideas, and to help pass safety along.

The Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) is a coalition of major U.S. manufacturers, importers and retailers of window coverings. The Council assists and supports its members in the industry’s ongoing efforts to encourage the use of cordless products in homes with young children, its redesign of corded products, and to support the national ANSI/WCMA standard for the safety of corded window coverings. WCSC’s activities in no way constitute an assumption of any legal duty owed by its members or any other entity. Consumers having need to retrofit rather than replace their older window coverings can order free retrofit devices through WCSC’s website at or its toll-free phone line at 1-800-506-4636.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Healthy Habits: Cold Sore Tips

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1), the virus that causes cold sores, infects more than half of the U.S. population by the time they reach their 20s. A cold sore can be painful especially as it blisters and forms a crusty scab, and there are also emotional side effects of cold sores, particularly large, conspicuous ones.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the virus. However, the sores can be treated. There are a variety of at-home and over-the-counter treatments available, including cool washcloths, drying agents like alcohol, stress reduction if you experience frequent cold sores.

Carmex has a new treatment as well. The combination of the three technologies found in TriPLEX™ Formula advanced technology allows this new formulation to provide cold sore appearance softening benefits. The first technology bends light as it approaches the cold sore, the second technology helps fill in unevenness of the cold sore, and the third technology helps correct the skin tone of the cold sore. The formula also contains a blend of silicone elastomers, commonly used in high-end skincare products, to give the product a smooth, silky feel.