Saturday, March 25, 2017

Book Nook: The Sparks

I recently had a chance to review a book by Kyle Prue, an author who began his career while still in high school. He just re-released his first novel, The Sparks, with updated cover and additional content.

I liked the premise of the book. It starts the Feud Trilogy with three families who have superpowers that have been fighting for hundreds of years. One family can teleport and turn enemies to ash, one family can heal from any wound, and one family has skin of steel and super strength. After a long history where they only know conflict, a new power comes in, one that can change the way of life for everyone - superpowers and ordinary citizens.

There were things I liked about the book. For an author's first work, it was quite well developed. I enjoyed the relatively unique take on feuding families, and it would be appealing to young adult readers that the younger generation figures prominently in the story. I didn't always appreciate the author's use of language, but overall the story was fast-paced and engaging.

Prue is the Award Winning Author of The Sparks. During the books first launch, The Sparks won numerous national and international awards for Best YA Fiction including: state and national awards from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association, the Florida Book Festival, the New England Book Festival, Midwest Book Festival, Southern California Book Festival, and the International London Book Festival. 

Consumer Critique: The Plans I Have for You and Investigator's Bibles

We have a lot of Bibles in our family, in several different versions. I like reading different Bibles, but what I'm really starting to appreciate as I have kids is Bibles with a few extras - devotionals or study guide helps, for example. I think they make the Bible more accessible and real to kids, and honestly, sometimes I learn something too as we read them together. I recently got to review two different NIV Bibles from Zondervan, and liked both of them.

The NIV Investigator's Holy Bible is great for the kids who ask a lot of questions. My nine-year-old loves learning facts, and my seven-year-old is the type to question a lot of things. This Bible, designed for kids six through ten, uses a detective theme to help clarify things that can be confusing to kids and to explain the essential parts of each book. It provides a scene for the action, historical evidence of Biblical events, quizzes to help kids review what they've learned, information about Biblical names, and ways that the historical events relate to kids' lives.

This Bible was wonderful for both of my children. One loved to share the facts she was learning with her grandparents and teachers, the other was excited to read about the evidence of the Bible, showing her that things really happened.

Last year, we got to read the devotional that the NIV The Plans I Have for You Holy Bible pairs with. This Bible helps kids on a very personal level - their dreams and wishes for the future. As a child, there is so much uncertainty, especially as they get into the tween years and start realizing just how much they don't know. This Bible helps kids trust that, whatever happens, God is in control.

This Bible summarizes some of the plans God had for key figures in the Bible. It also has prayers kids can pray to ask for God's help fulfilling His plan for them, highlighted verses to emphasize God's promises that are still true today, and beautiful art that is kid-friendly.

Bibles can make great gifts, and devotional Bibles are worth having, even if you already own one, because the extra features can inspire some wonderful family discussions!

Consumer Critique: Banza Mac

Macaroni and cheese can be a staple in many households. It's fast and easy to cook - in our house, it's often what we leave for the baby-sitter to make. We love making it different each time, with different mix-ins and sometimes even adding spice to the sauce. Normally, we'll just add tuna and either corn or peas, but sometimes we get a lot crazier.

My kids love mac & cheese, so I was happy to review a new brand, Banza. This macaroni has twice the protein, four times the fiber, and 40% fewer net carbs per serving than most brands. It's also gluten-free and non-GMO.

It's made from chickpeas, which are naturally higher in protein and also GF. The texture is just slightly different than regular mac & cheese - my husband noticed that it was different, and so did my older daughter, but both of them still happily ate it. I loved that it had more protein and fewer carbs, and also that it makes a good option to serve when my kids have GF friends over.

You can find Banza at a variety of stores near you, including Target. Check out their blog with great recipe ideas!

Healthy Habits: Easter Basket Treats

Easteris coming up soon. The holiday has become associated commercially with the Easter Bunny and Easter candy for children. Yet more and more, as Americans become more health conscious they are seeking different treats to give their children on Easter, or candy that isn’t totally unhealthy.
I had a chance to interview Dr. Keith Kantor, a leading nutritionist and and CEO of the Nutritional Addiction Mitigation Eating & Drinking (NAMED) program, to get some healthy options.

Why are sweets such an easy Easter basket filler?
Easter, except for Halloween, is the biggest holiday of the year for candy.  That can be a bad thing -- especially since Easter-themed events may stretch out over a week or more with between school parties, neighborhood hunts and family gatherings..
Overconsumption of sugar by kids can lead to moodiness and hyperactivity -- a sugar high can even be misdiagnosed as ADHD.
Regular consumption of processed sugar ties in with a growing problem of obesity, leading to diabetes, among Americans. A child who is overweight is three times more likely to be an overweight adult. It's been estimated that 40 percent of the U.S. population will either be diabetic or pre-diabetic by 2020.  We have to start with the young people to address this growing epidemic.  Instead of forbidding candy, practice moderation, this is a great way to teach self and portion control.
When there is a lot of candy around encourage your kids to drink water and stay hydrated, which is important for many reasons but it will also fill them up and make them less hungry. The general rule of thumb is that, whatever your body weight in pounds, you should drink half that number of ounces of water each day. For example, a 60-pound child should drink 30 ounces of water. Sugar is acidic which leads to inflammation, try drinking hydroxide alkaline water(which naturally eliminates the acids) to reduce the inflammation it causes in the body. The best I found through my research is AQUA OH-!, and since it is a concentrate it is 250%+ less expensive than other alkaline waters and works better.  

What are some healthier options?
Easter should be a fun and celebratory time, but it doesn't have to be all about chocolate.  Kids, believe it or not, don't care about just the candy, they care about getting something.  An Easter basket can be filled with inexpensive toys -- plastic jewelry, temporary tattoos, a jump rope, and bubbles solution, stickers. Cut up fruit with tooth picks in them and small boxes of raisins and healthier options which kids seem to enjoy.
If your children get a lot of candy from an egg hunt or party let them indulge a little and then offer to trade the rest of the candy from them in exchange for a trip to the movies, park or toy store.
Easter should be a fun time, it's healthier to emphasize the religious aspects of the holiday over the commercial ones. The stores made it all about candy, but parents do not have to give into this.  By spending time with your children during the holiday weekend, playing with them, you're also burning some calories from whatever candy they (and you!) do end up eating.
If parents still want to include sweets, what are some better choices?
Think quality vs. quantity, invest in higher quality candy made without dyes, or processed syrups, in smaller quantities, the candy is there just not a ton of it and it tastes great. 
Annie's Organic products, which can be found in some grocery stores, offers colorful organic fruit snacks that can be substituted for jellybeans or gummy candies.
Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups, which can also be found in milk and dark chocolate and almond butter varieties. 
Green and Black’s organic chocolate eggs, can also be found at the grocery store. 
Surf Sweets Organic Jelly Beans made with organic juice, dye free non- GMO and gluten free, can be found online or at specialty grocery stores. 

Website Spotlight:

Imagine not having to comb through all your cookbooks, magazines and newspaper clippings for that one recipe you know is there, somewhere! is the go-to source for anything and everything kosher - recipes, original vivid videos, menu planning, tablescapes, centerpieces, food to make with the kids, food substitutions and more, with picture quality that looks so good you’ll want to reach out and eat right from your screen! simplifies your search for just the right kosher recipe - be it gluten-free, Syrian-style or low calorie, you’ll find thousands upon thousands of kosher recipes under one umbrella site. They’ve been collected, archived and digitized from your favorite cookbooks, magazines, kosher chefs and more, some that were printed long-ago to current favorites, plus original recipes exclusive to is ready for Passover, too. Its immense collection of free recipes, videos, and other valuable content just got bigger with the addition of Passover resources from notable chefs, cookbook authors, food bloggers, and the strong community.’s massive recipe library is fully searchable, allowing users to find exactly what they need. Recipes can be filtered by ingredient, dietary needs, type of cuisine, chef, holiday, and even by level of difficulty.
The site features mouth-watering recipes from renowned kosher cooks including Victoria Dweck, Chanie Nayman, Susie Fishbein, Naomi Nachman, Jamie Geller, Renee Muller, Miriam Pascal, Chanie Apfelbaum, and many other leading names in the kosher food community. Other recipes are culled from a variety of sources including Passover cookbooks, the Kosher Cook-Off, Artscroll cookbooks, Joy of Kosher, and, to name a few. also includes the first-ever collection of recipes from Mishpacha, Bayis, Binah and Ami magazines available in one resource directory. “When our audience and readers told us that some of their most cherished recipes came from these magazines, we knew we had to share them with the community,” said Leah Gottheim, Vice President of For the first time ever, recipes from these popular publications are online and free of charge on And new recipes and content are being added every day.
For Passover and year-round,’s recipes come to life with beautiful videos of food in the making, from beginner to gourmet and all skill levels in between. “Our Passover-specific videos and articles help and inspire users on topics of all kinds: innovative Seder table settings, Passover Prep 101, step-by-step guides to making recipes, ways to use up chometz and even things to do with your kids during the bread-free holiday,” adds Gottheim.
Other features on the site include a menu generator that makes it easy to create a customized, unforgettable meal for any occasion and a forum where the community can ask the experts, share recipes, and exchange tips.

About was officially launched on December 19, 2016. This is the first year the site offers fans and readers Passover content to help make the eight-day holiday delicious, as well as tips for making the transition to Passover easier and simpler.  The site is headed up by VP Leah Gottheim and is edited by Chanie Nayman. is available free of charge.

Mealtime Magic: Ideas from Moore's Marinades and Sauces

Cooking for kids can be hard - sometimes they're picky, and sometimes their tastes change too quickly to keep up! Plus, with a busy household, creating flavorflul meals with unique tastes can be a challenge. I had a chance to try out a sauce from Moore's Marinades & Sauces and want to share some ideas from their website of recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less.

- Pack kids' lunch boxes with Moore’s Snack Mix. Using Moore’s Original Marinade, this recipe will add seasonings of wonderful tastes to their Crispix, pretzels and nuts combo! 
- For the perfect afternoon snack, whip up Moore’s Honey BBQ Pigs in a BlanketUsing Moore’s Honey BBQ Wing sauce, you can either brush the little piggies for some amazing additional flavor or simply set it on the side for a dipping sauce!
- Next up, dinner time! Make it easier on yourself by preparing Moore’s Mini Cheeseburgers. This combines the classic taste of a cheeseburger with the complement from a favorite Moore’s marinade or sauce! 
- You can also expand their palate just a tad with the Buffalo Chicken Tortilla Pizza. With the simple use of a tortilla for a thin-crust, this chicken tortilla pizza is complemented by Moore’s Buffalo Wing Sauce for a little extra kick! (This is the sauce I tried out. I didn't think it would be a hit, but it was just spicy enough to add a kick without being too overwhelming for my kids.)

From a small, Alabama town, Moore’s was originated by a family who loved a signature southern, hickory taste to compliment all their favorite foods. Moore’s has since expanded its line of products from the award winning Original Marinade and now offers nine different delicious marinades and sauces to add flavor and variety to snacks, appetizers, sides main dishes and more, so you and your kiddos can experience their favorite flavors! Moore’s recently swept ZestFest 2017’s Fiery Foods Challenge in the mild/medium sauce category with Blue Cheese winning the Golden Chili Awards (1st place), Original Buffalo winning 2ndplace and Ranch winning 3rd. Asian Teriyaki won 2nd in the Asian condiments and Honey BBQ won 2nd in exotic BBQ.

Healthy Habits: Warm Weather Conditions and Prevention

Spring is here! The weather is warming up and flu season is almost over! This is the time of year for sun, fun, and relaxation.  Unfortunately, with the warm weather comes a different group of illnesses and medical hazards. Dr. Katie Friedman, board certified pediatrician and co-founder of, is going to help prepare us for the spring months with a discussion of the common illnesses during these otherwise fun filled months.

Allergies. The reason for the spike in allergy flare-ups in spring is due to the blooming trees, plants and flowers. Pollen and other products of nature get carried by the wind and end up in our nose, eyes, and lungs. When this happens, our immune system reacts to the foreign elements and releases histamine. Histamine causes swelling and mucus production in the nose, redness and tearing in the eyes, and itching.  More seriously, it can cause wheezing, excess mucus production, and swelling in the lungs. Make sure you have the tools you need to fight against allergies including antihistamines, decongestants, combination antihistamine/decongestants, and cromolyn nasal spray! It is important to plan ahead of time, especially if your child tends to wheeze. Speak to your doctor about a plan to fight against allergies before the season starts as it can be stressful for both you and your child.

Heat illness. I am already starting to see cases of heat illness in the ER! So, let's go over them and discuss how to prevent it from happening. Heat cramps are brief, painful muscle cramps in the legs, arms, or abdomen that may occur during or after exercise in extreme heat. It isn't dangerous but a painful sign that it is time to hydrate and cool off. Heat exhaustion causes symptoms which include increased thirst, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, irritability, headache, increase sweating, and fainting. If your child is having any of these, you need to take them immediately indoors, take off their clothes, place cool clothes on their body, encourage fluids with salt or sugar (Gatorade), and call the doctor. Sun poisoning is a sunburn that forms large painful blisters on your body along with symptoms of fever, chills, nausea, headache, and signs of dehydration.  To prevent these heat illness make sure your child is well hydrated. They need to be drinking fluids every 30-45 minutes while out in the hot sun. The best type of fluids are ones that have sugar and salt to replenish electrolytes. Sunscreen is imperative. Wear a sunscreen that has at least 30 SPF and apply it about 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Reapply sunscreen at least every hour and after you have been in the water. Wear protective clothing and limited sun exposure.

Food poisoning. Bacteria loves warm, moist environments and therefore the amount of cases of food poisoning increases significantly during the summer. A quick and easy rule to avoid food poisoning- hot foods should be kept hot and cold foods should be kept cold. Try to avoid dishes that have been in the sun for an extended period of time.

Mosquito ticks, and more.  Unfortunately, mosquitoes are not only annoying but can be extremely dangerous.  Mosquito-born infections are usually causes by arbovirus and can lead to serious illness including Zika Virus, St. Louis encephalitis, and dengue fever. Although not as common in Florida, tick-borne infection increases significantly during the spring and summer months. Lyme disease is popular in the media right now, but Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis are other infections spread by ticks as well. It is so important that you make sure your child is not only wearing sunblock but bug spray too. I recommend using an organic bug spray  as the chemicals used to repel the insects can be strong.

For more important pediatric medical tips and safety precautions, follow Dr. Friedman at

Website Spotlight: Epic

April 1st is right around the corner and some light-hearted fun around home or the classroom can be a good thing when done in good taste and frankly, laughing is the best medicine. If you’re a parent or educator, what better time to have a little fun with your kids? Plus April Fool’s Day is actually a chance to maybe even learn a few new tricks (yes old dogs can!) too. 
Epic! the leading eBook platform for kids 12 and younger, curated a set of April Fool’s Day books that will leave kiddies in stitches (from laughing!) and chock full of pun and games.

Jokelopedia, Third Edition: The Biggest, Best, Silliest, Dumbest Joke Book Ever! by Eva Blank, Alison Benjamin, Rosanne Green

Pun and Games: Jokes, Riddles, Daffynitions, Tairy Fales, Rhymes, and More Word Play for Kids by Richard Lederer, Dave Morice, Illustrator - Dave Morice 

Pranklopedia: The Funniest, Grossest, Craziest, Not-Mean Pranks on the Planet! by Julie Winterbottom

Laff-O-Tronic School Jokes! by Michael Dahl , Illustrator - Daryll Collins 

Knock Knock, Moo Hoo? (and other silly animal jokes)  by Brenda Ponnay


Epic! is an unlimited eBook subscription service ($4.99/month and FREE for elementary school teachers and librarians) with the largest catalogue of high quality books from well known publishers that creates a unique and fun experience to get kids excited about reading.  Similar to Netflix, Epic! provides personalized reading recommendations based on age and interest and instant streaming. To date, over 20 million books per month are read by children across the nation.

Money Makers: Meditation and Margaritas

Karin Roest, former celebrity talent scout & global producer shares how women are approaching business differently than men & why that's a good thing.  
According to the National Women's Business Council, female-run businesses will increase 50% over the next five years. (Source)
Why is this? A new outlook is trending among women in the workplace - one that promotes happiness, fulfillment, and longevity - and it is paying off in a big way. The latest generation of female professionals are unapologetically multiface ted. Having multiple passions, interests, jobs, and ambitions is the new norm and it is this diversity that creates success. 
We call this trend Meditation & Margaritas and it is especially appealing to the female brain which is hardwired for multi-tasking. 
"The female make-up is a patchwork of contrasting ideas, experiences, and attributes," says Karin Roest.  "Meditation & Margaritas is a mindset that reminds women to embrace this diversity and use it to reach their professional and personal goals."
From orphan to celebrity talent scout to buddhist nun, Karin Roest is the epitome of this mantra.  She has used her diverse cultural background to succeed in business and is inspiring women to do the same. 
Today Karin teaches women to turn their fear of the unknown into courage. 
I had a chance to interview Karin to learn more.

What is the Meditation & Margaritas approach?
Meditation and Margaritas is a philosophy based on balance. It helps women understand how to merge the complex aspects of their personality, skills, passions, and interests into one extraordinary life. It shows them how to use their life experiences and innate gifts of multi-tasking to self-actualize their goals and create practical methods to achieve them.

What do women need to consider when deciding to run a business?
First, you must believe that you are as good as anyone else out there, even your biggest role models. I’ve been working with celebrities for 15 years, and seen many time how unknown people with a lot of potential tend to place higher value on others than themselves. Women in particular are often taught to be “nice” instead of empowered and assertive, which delays their progress. It is also important to use a proven system that combines all of the best parts of who you are into your revenue streams so that you feel complete in anything that you do. This is the most effective way to do meaningful work that is worth getting paid for.

What typically holds women back from taking this risk?
They get confused because there are so many self-proclaimed experts that share conflicting information about how to grow your business. So it’s important to get advice from someone who has worked with the most influential people in the world, as they provide the most secure business structures to model after. Another big issue is hidden self-sabotage. You know you’re capable, but their inner voices chime in and says, “Who do you think you are? You should be taking care of the kids, your husband, or your job instead making that business plan that’s going to make you truly happy!” That’s a dream killer. The most successful Meditation & Margaritas women always save some time for themselves, and master the daily demands of life with ease and grace.

How can women prepare to jump into business ownership?
Women should invest in getting help to create their business plans before they’re clear on what they want to do and how to do it, or else they often won’t take the leap. This is a lifelong process with many different moving parts, so pace yourself. Then focus on developing a strategy to do work that you love AND how to make money from it. There are always fast tracks to get paid early on, so focus on those first as you’ll need that profit to invest back into your business in the beginning to keep on growing.

How can women use their own background and characteristics to create a personal brand?
Your background, characteristics, and the stories that have made you stronger should be the focal point of your personal brand, as this makes you stand out as a thought leader. What you do comes second. Women have the right to share all aspects of themselves without shame: The good, the bad, and the ugly. For example, I often do my client calls through Skype without makeup. I look natural but always know how to deliver what is expected without feeling ashamed to show my blemishes, physical or emotional. Do you let people see the real you? Once women have an unapologetic attitude show the world their femininity, vulnerability, strength, they will join the ranks of the rest of the Meditation & Margaritas women that are rewarded for showing theirs.

Karin Roest is an entrepreneur, author, and female empowerment enthusiast. As a celebrity talent scout & global producer, she has worked with celebrities like Pitbull, Britney Spears and Macklemore. 
Her diverse connections and cultural experiences has helped guide her to become the entrepreneur she is today. 
Courageously confronting the unknown, from sneaking in and out of war zones to rebuild African communities to unraveling the mysterious deaths of her birth parents and three biological sisters, and meditating for one year in silence in Myanmar (Burma), Karin shares her findings about the true meaning of solitude, freedom, happiness, and love to chronicle the lifelong map of her past that has paved the way for the future understanding of herself, the world, and her place within it.

Thrifty Thinking: The Deeper Meaning Behind Kids Earning Allowance

Written by Gregg Murset, CEO of BusyKid

Do your children earn an allowance for helping around the house (doing chores)? If not, then listen up because they should be.

During my more than 20 years as a Certified Financial Planner, I’ve heard plenty of reasons why a parent doesn’t want to pay an allowance for kids doing chores. Just none of them make sense if you are looking at the deeper meaning behind paying an allowance.

We all need motivation to get things done, and for the majority of adults, the greatest motivator is MONEY. And, despite what the “non-allowance” camp wants to say, MONEY is what motivates kids for the long haul too! That’s right, money! Not stickers, not points, not electronic monsters and not extra TV time.

Eventually everything comes back to money, so why shouldn’t we raise our kids to understand and appreciate what they will come to find out anyway? The earlier in life they realize and appreciate it, the faster they can learn the things they will need to know to make good financial decisions as adults.

According to a recent survey of more than 1,000 parents by The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 70 percent say they provide their kids a weekly allowance. Nearly 60% of these parents do so because their kids do chores around the house.

There is a great divide in this country when it comes to allowance. No matter which camp you belong to, this can’t be denied - paying a child an allowance for hard work will provide hands-on experience in earning, saving, sharing and spending. All valuable lessons they will need later as adults!

So, if you aren’t paying your child an allowance for helping around the house, where do your children learn these lessons? Certainly not at school! Here are some things I would like for you to consider when it comes to paying your children for helping around the house:

1. Pay On Your Terms!
It doesn’t matter whether a parent gives an allowance for chores that are completed daily, weekly, monthly, or that go above being part of the family. Ideally, every week is best, but the key is to provide an allowance and drive home the many lessons associated with earning.

2. Deduct For Bad Behavior
How many times have you walked through a store and heard a parent bribing a child to behave? Be honest, we’ve all done it. However, maybe more effective is to deduct money from a weekly allowance for bad behavior. Kids learn early the spending power of money, as well as the fact the less they have, the less they can buy. Don’t bribe when you can deduct!

3. Start Young For More Experience
I believe two things are basically true when it comes to kids: 1) If they are old enough to make a mess, they are old enough to clean it; and 2) The younger our kids have something drilled into them, the better it sticks. Whether it’s an instrument, a sport or allowance, the same holds true. The earlier we implement these things, the stronger the foundation.

4. Let Your Kids Make Decisions
Once your kids have earned some money, let them make decisions on how to save, share and spend it. When your children begin to drive, you just don’t let them go out for the first time without you sitting in the passenger seat, do you? It’s very important for our kids to gain experience earning and managing money before we let them go out on their own. It’s ok to be their safety net but there are many valuable lessons to be learned by letting them use their hard earned money.

5. Invest, Invest, Invest
When you give your kids an allowance, you should make them invest at least some of it. A few years ago a survey showed that a majority of Millennials (age 18-34) don’t invest their money because they don’t understand how investments work. Teaching kids about investments from an early age will have them ready for when the time is right. If your investment skills are subpar, learn it together.

6. Don’t Quit
Parenting is about give & take, on & off and starting over. With that said, there will be a time when you’ll want to quit paying allowance and doing all the other things I’ve suggested. Please don't! With our kids learning little to nothing about personal finance at school, it’s up to you to provide them with the background, insight and hands-on experience they will need to confront the millions of financial decisions waiting for them as adults. Without you, it could be a bumpy ride.