Saturday, January 31, 2009

Are You Still Sneaking Tofu Into the Coconut Custard Pies?

Am I? This is a question that just came to me via Facebook from my grown daughter’s college friend. Boy! Did I make an impression or what? That must be all he remembers about me after so many years.

Yes, I’m guilty of raising my kids on healthful foods. Veggies have always been a staple in our house. And yes, I’ll admit that some unusual ingredients have, on occasion, made their way into some otherwise “normal” dishes, however “sneaking” is a harsh word. I simply “placed” them there.

I found that, in the beginning of our lifestyle changes, it was easier to use additions and substitutions in recipes and not announce to the family that the cheesecake was actually half cream cheese and half tofu, or that the pasta sauce had been secretly mixed in the blender with a can of kidney beans. I never considered this to be lying. I just didn’t tell them the whole truth.

I have lots of tips for getting your family to eat more healthfully. Number one is – Don’t ever tell them it’s good for them! As soon as they hear those words, the battle is lost. When my kids asked, “What’s in the lasagna, Mom?” my answer was “lasagna noodles and pasta sauce”. That’s the truth. I just “forget” to mention the tofu and the spinach that are in there, too.

If you are worried about making changes in your family’s eating habits, here’s another important thing to remember – If it tastes good, they’ll eat it. And by all means, please don’t look guilty when you place the whole wheat pasta on the table, or the mostly egg white omelet on their breakfast plate. And don’t ask them how it tastes. (You may not like the answer.) Just smile in a self-assured manner, then sit down and dig in.

In my meatless cookbooks, The Vegetarian Gourmet’s Easy International Recipes and The Vegetarian Gourmet’s Easy Low-Fat Favorites, I feature lots of recipe make-overs.

When you’re feeling brave, give tofu a try. Use it to replace half the cheese in lasagna, or cheesecake, or half the eggs in your omelet or quiche. Maybe someone will remember you for it!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Have a Toddler? READ, READ, READ Aloud…Then Read Aloud Some More

I enjoyed reading to my children and I really enjoy reading to my grandchildren. In my day (Ouch, I never thought I would say those words!) reading was fun. It was what we did with small children. We had no electronic distractions, no large shopping malls, and our favorite outing was an afternoon at the library. I never worried about “reading readiness”, probably because I don’t recall ever hearing that term until I entered college to become a teacher.

Today I am known in my family as the grandmother who always has time for one more book. I love that distinction. In fact, my ten grandchildren were the inspiration behind - and my reason for writing - my books, The Knot Fairy and The Sock Fairy.

So if you have a toddler, and if you are wondering about reading readiness, these buzz words may have you in a tizzy. Many parents worry that they are not doing enough to make sure their child is ready for school. While educational experts agree that preschool-aged children benefit greatly from participating in reading readiness activities, these activities should be enjoyable – both to the parent and the child. Don’t stress and don’t think your child needs to be reading novels by age 3. (Even if your neighbor is insisting that her 3-year old is halfway through Harry Potter.) Readiness is just that – helping your child to become ready to read. There are many easy ways that you can provide opportunities that will help encourage a book-positive attitude in your child. Here are a few easy, no-stress ways to do this:

· Start reading to children before they can talk. This is so important to language development.
· Read to your children every day and they will be more likely to want to read.
· Read in front of your children so they will know that reading is a part of your routine.
· Read alphabet books to them and help them identify the sounds of letters and words.
· Make a special place in your home for children to keep their own books.
· Encourage toddlers to hold the books and turn the pages themselves, teaching them at an early age how to care for books and to be gentle with things of value.
· Choose books that have bright colors, shapes, and lots of new vocabulary words.
· Read lots of rhyming books to toddlers. Rhymes are easy for children to memorize and repeat, allowing children to pretend they are actually reading.
· When you come to a new word, have the child repeat it with you.
· Help your child memorize nursery rhymes. Repeat them over and over together, enjoying the rhythm and the rhyming patterns.
· Read a page, then cover one of the pictures on that page and encourage the child to identify the missing item.
· Work on pre-reading skills by having early readers “read” the book to you by “reading” the pictures.
· Make an afternoon at the library an enjoyable outing. Bring home lots of books.
· Most important of all – Smile and enjoy your time with your precious toddler. They grow so fast.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Where IS That Missing Sock?

Missing socks are everywhere. Or nowhere! We can never seem to find the mates to socks after we do the laundry. (Even if we find the mate, there’s no way to guarantee that some of our socks won’t then disappear from our dresser drawers.) Yet, with all of these awol socks, why do we find extra socks in some of the most unlikely places? Have you ever wondered why one sock may appear in the middle of a busy street? (Often we see one shoe; however that’s a tale for another day.) If you clean your room, your office, or even your car, chances are you will find at least one lone sock.

What’s the best way to locate a missing sock? Throw it away. The lost one will then surely appear! Sometimes, of course, the socks are not really lost. They are simply and magically attached to your sweater sleeve, waiting to be discovered by a chuckling office worker.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you some uses for those lone socks since I’ve been studying this mystery for a long time. Don’t just throw single socks away. Use a lone sock to make a sock monkey or toy for your dog. How about a dusting cloth or a one-of-a-kind ipod case? Ear warmers for your basset hound? You can even fill a sock with frozen peas to make an ice pack or fill a sock with catnip for your kitty or house a (very) small coin collection.

Now for the answer to this dilemma. I have done a huge favor for society. I offer to you the real, honest-to-goodness, factual, bona fide, genuine answer to the mystery of missing socks. It’s the Sock Fairy, of course! So, what does he do with them? Where do they go? Just read my new book and then you will know!

Some questions to ponder:
If the sock fairy wants two socks, why does he take two different socks, rather than a matching pair?
Why does he always take the left sock?
Learn more about The Sock Fairy (and his friends) at

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where is the "Real" World of Fairies?

Where is the “real” land of fairies?

Have you ever wondered where fairies really live? Before delving into this mystery, you must close your eyes, cross your fingers, turn around in a circle three times, clap your hands twice and then say “I believe.”

First, let’s clear up some misunderstandings about the spelling of “fairy.” There are actually a number of acceptable spellings: fairy, faerie, faery, fayre. The world of fairies is often referred to as the world of fey , denoting a world of the mysterious and supernatural. However you spell it, the myths and mysteries about fairies are many. However only one thing remains clear – that nothing is clear! Mysteries are everyday happenings in the fairy world. Anything is possible.

Fairy legends are centuries old and have been passed down from generation to generation, varying according to the country of origin. There are scores of fairy tales from the British Isles, Australia, Iceland and the Scandinavian countries. Some early legends tell us that fairies are the souls of unbaptized children. Some say that fairies are the children of Eve, while others say that they are fallen angels, lying somewhere between humans and angels. Still others think that fairies are simply the spirits of nature, children of Mother Nature. In some stories fairies are good, while in others they are clearly evil. In most they are somewhere in the middle – a bit mischievous, even downright tricky. Because of this, most believers agree that it is not wise to try to fool a fairy. Always be polite and treat all fairies with respect.

Through the ages, fairies have been blamed for all kinds of problems – from missing treasures to missing socks. I personally believe that the Tooth Fairy is alive and well and that there IS a fairy that tangles your hair while you sleep (The Knot Fairy) and there IS a real Sock Fairy. And when it comes to belly buttons, the fairies are in on that, too.

Where do fairies live? It is believed that some fairies live in gardens, some on mountaintops, and others in rivers and lakes. Many legends tell of the fairies that inhabit our homes. There are even a few that are known to live in Disney World. So, is Fairlyland just over the rainbow or is it inside the earth, just below our feet? Is it real or does it exist simply in our minds and hearts?

Only the fairies know for sure and they’re not telling!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Don't Let Anyone Steal Your Dreams-Lessons From an 8-Year Old

Are you an aspiring writer? Someone who loves children? A teacher looking for ways to inspire the students to write? Parents looking for ways to spark their kids’ creativity? Someone who has an idea, but is lacking the conviction to proceed? Read on…

Recently, I had the good fortune to meet a very talented 8-year old author. Yes, that’s right. I said 8-year old. This amazing little guy learned a little known fact about butterflies in science class and turned it into a book! Titled Butterflies Shouldn’t Wear Shoes, this beautifully illustrated (by the author, of course) book tells us that butterflies can wear whatever they like, however they should never wear shoes. Why? Here’s a hint – butterflies taste with their feet. (Who knew?)

The real point here is that young Eric seized the moment, took the bull by the horns, had an idea and ran with it. However you choose to say it, he didn’t let anyone steal his dreams. Proud of the fact that he is donating all of the proceeds from the book to the World Wildlife Fund, Eric has even been interviewed by Fox News and has been featured in the World Wildlife Newsletter. He has already raised over $2000.

What an inspiration to us all. And you can’t do it – why??

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How Many Careers HaveYou Had?

Does a career have to span a lifetime? I don't think so. Years ago, people chose a career path and stuck to it through their entire adult life. Not so today. The choices today are many and varied and, if you're lucky (and work your ____ off), you can enjoy the rewards offered by a number of different careers.

Today I am a children's author, however the path I took to this destination was a very crooked one. I began my adult life as an elementary teacher. For many people, this is a lifetime career, and I truly admire those who are dedicated to shaping young lives. However, after a few years I had another calling - horses. We moved to a farm and I became a horse trainer/riding instructor/show rider. This was backbreaking work (literally), but living on a farm taught our kids so many valuable lessons about life. To shorten a very long story, after my third back surgery the time had arrived to hang up the stirrups. So, what to do next? Write cookbooks, of course! I loved to cook, and healthful cooking was one of my passions. I ended up writing some of the industry's first lowfat cookbooks. This was great for 10 years or so. I traveled the country teaching cooking classes and lecturing anyone who would listen about the benefits of healthy eating. However, I really do love antiques and when I found that I was accumulating more than our house could hold, we faced a decision. Do we start hanging pictures and "stuff" on the outside of hour house or do we start selling some of our treasures? If you sell some, there is room to buy more. You guessed it. I became an antique dealer. But that was not the end of my careers. My life (and maturity level) were evolving along the way. I had "accumulated" ten grandchildren and soon found that my career was about to go full circle. My love for children's literature came rushing back, my love for children blossomed, and here I am today - a real live children's author. I think this may be my last career, and I feel that it is definitely the best so far, however I have learned to never say "never".

The point in all of this is, to me, loud and clear - Follow your dreams! Get excited about trying something new. Be brave. Go for it!